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Isle Of Wight Festival withdraws cost-cutting proposals, due to “incorrect media inferences”

By | Published on Wednesday 12 October 2016

Isle Of Wight Festival

The operator of the Isle Of Wight Festival, Solo, has withdrawn a proposal for the local council to waive the land hire fee it charges for the use of the Seaclose Park site where the event takes place. A council statement said that “incorrect media inferences” were behind the company’s decision to withdraw the request, which was due to be discussed by councillors tomorrow.

As previously reported, Solo put forward a request for the council to drop the £55,000 hire fee. Councillors in turn proposed reducing it to £13,000 if the festival itself took on a number of previously council-provided services – including traffic management and additional toilets at traffic hubs – which cost about £42,000.

A council report prepared in order to inform the discussion noted the increased competitiveness in the festival market and the need to reduce costs. If this was not possible, it said, there was a risk that Solo, which operates the festival on behalf of the council, would pull out of the 2017 event, likely meaning that it would be cancelled entirely as the chances of a new operator being able to get the necessary licences in time was slim.

The “incorrect media inferences” taken from this by some publications seems to have been that the festival has been struggling to sell tickets, which the report does not say. Although it does state that “most [festivals] are reporting significantly reduced ticket sales” in the face of increased competition.

In a statement, a council spokesperson says: “The council would like to make it clear that it has not, as reported, said that ticket sales have decreased. In fact ticket sales have seen a significant increase in recent years. However, the report does make it clear that the costs of staging the festival are increasing and as such Solo incur many additional running costs each year beyond simply booking the acts”.

They continue: “The report sought to make it clear that Solo has two choices regarding the increasing costs – to reduce its running costs or to raise ticket prices. Solo has always been committed to offering their festival goers the best value for money and do not believe it’s fair that the fans are the ones left to contribute to rising costs, hence its approach to the council to vary the terms of the current agreement”.

The report also noted that land hire was not the only cost that would need to be reduced in order to make the 2017 event viable.

Councillors will now “work with [Solo] to look at other alternatives to help reduce the costs of staging the event”. Although having clarified the event’s current position, it’s not immediately obvious why they can’t just continue with the previously proposed cost-cutting measures. A request for clarification on this was not immediately returned.

The council’s report also states that “Solo have indicated that they need to resolve all their costs by the end of October 2016 in order to make a decision as to whether the 2017 event will go ahead”. So we will no doubt discover the festival’s fate soon enough.