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Standon Calling: ‘Unpaid’ acts and vendors spark speculation about future of music festival
06/02/2024 15:35 in Music

The future of Standon Calling, East Herts’ flagship music festival, is being called into question this week.

The event, which began in 2001 as a birthday barbecue for founder Alex Trenchard and last summer was enjoyed by around 17,000 fans, is now dogged by accusations of unpaid bills for some acts and vendors and outstanding refunds for disgruntled customers.

In December 2022, the headliners for July 2023’s four-day festival at Standon Lordship were revealed as Human League, Years & Years, Self Esteem and Bloc Party. However, while tickets for July 25 to 28 this year are on sale, no details of the line-up have been announced.

Bishop's Stortford's Simon Baker, frontman of Uncle Funk's Disco Inferno. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Bishop's Stortford's Simon Baker, frontman of Uncle Funk's Disco Inferno. Picture: Gerred Gilronan

Uncle Funk’s Disco Inferno, fronted by Bishop’s Stortford’s Simon Baker, has been a Standon staple since 2015. He said the band was paid for last year’s appearance but was yet to be booked for this summer.


At the end of January, Mr Trenchard responded to one concerned customer and gave some clues about the issues facing the festival. The camper was complaining about the premium rate boutique site last summer and an outstanding refund. Mr Trenchard conceded there were problems and promised a proper response.

He said on Facebook: “The main issue is that everything costs so much more now than in the old days you remember. If we are to keep the number of stages etc that we’ve always had, we do have to grow and obviously that comes with growing pains and a loss of intimacy.

Alex Trenchard
Alex Trenchard

“Personally, I think the time has come to try to find a balance between being big in some areas (main stage) and small and intimate in others but in a way that’s affordable. It may mean some sacrifices and scaling back, but we have to protect the future viability of the festival.”

After last year’s event, when he announced the ticket prices for this year, Mr Trenchard said: “As Standon Calling remains a proudly small, independent festival, we are vulnerable to this. Our costs have gone up 50% since 2021 and we don’t enjoy the same economies of scale as larger events. Food costs, bar staffing costs and many other parts of the festival delivery supply chain have increased.”

He said that of the £179 cost of a Local Adult Weekend ticket, plus booking fees, the festival received £149 after 20% VAT. The Association of Independent Festivals was, he said, lobbying the Government to reduce the rate to prevent more festivals from going under.

Companies House records show that last September, Standon Calling was the subject of a compulsory strike-off notice, but it was discontinued four days later.

The Standon Calling crowd loved Rick Astley
The Standon Calling crowd loved Rick Astley

Currently, the festival’s directors are Mr Trenchard, his father Hugh, Viscount Trenchard, Alex Hardee and the Honourable Edward Wood.

A note on the latest financial statement up to September 2022 says: “The company is reliant upon the support of a director and a key member who have agreed that their loans to the company will not be repaid unless the company has sufficient funds to meet all other liabilities.”

On X, the social media channel formerly known as Twitter, comedians Rhys James and Mark Watson suggested they had not been paid, six months after their appearances in The Lawn tent, next to Standon Calling’s iconic swimming pool. The Indie has asked both comics to comment further.

Olly Alexander, Years & Years
Olly Alexander, Years & Years

In response to Mr Watson’s post, a street food vendor claimed £12,000 was outstanding from the festival. Traders pay for a pitch and all transactions at Standon Calling are cashless, via a central wristband loaded with credit by customers

 

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