Music festival sacks half its staff

Music festival sacks half its staff


norman lebrecht

October 20, 2020

From Harrogate International Festivals:

The UK cultural landscape has changed beyond recognition over the last six months and 2020 has been a year like no other for Harrogate International Festivals.

We cannot survive without income, yet our most vital revenue streams disappeared overnight.

Incredibly sad decisions have had to be made. Following consultation, over half the HIF team has been made redundant, reducing our already small core to 4. There will undoubtedly be further difficult decisions ahead.

As a registered charity, and even before Covid-19, we were responsible for raising 98% of our income through ticket sales, sponsorship, collaborations and donations. That constant challenge has meant we have always worked within a strong business framework to raise these less than robust income streams, but the sheer scale of the pandemic and its repercussions have left the festivals sector reeling and we are not immune.

Fiona Movley Chair of Harrogate International Festivals said: “Whilst we are often recognised as an extremely resilient organisation, agile and adaptable for over 50 years, times are still extremely challenging and HIF unfortunately did not qualify for the recent emergency Arts Council England grants that have been reported in the media.”

“Between March and August this year, HIF took a hit of £850,000 through lost revenues, ticket sales, hospitality closures and sponsorship. It is clear as we look ahead to the coming months, and see no signs of change for our arts charity, it is now, perhaps more than ever before, that we turn to our sponsors and supporters to continue this vital work.”

Over the coming months we will need to raise funds that can support us as we plot a route forward and to secure our future; whilst continuing to find new ways to connect writers, readers, musicians and audiences.

You have to wonder why ACE did not rescue Harrogate. Its criteria for giving grants are looking increasingly dubious.



  • Firing Back says:

    How on earth did HIF not deserve, or qualify for, the recent Arts Council grants?

    Clearly the HIF team is not all buddy-buddy with the cronies and cliques of ACE.

    Darren Henley et al must be terrified right now. It’s just a matter of time before ACE’s little empire collapses. Not long at all, apparently. And not a moment too soon.

    • UK Arts Manager says:

      According to its published accounts, Arts Council England’s management costs the UK taxpayer a staggering £50 million per year. There’s a huge saving to be made straight away.

      Each day comes the discovery of another really good UK arts organisation that wasn’t funded by ACE. Harrogate International Festival just adds to that growing scandal.

      What makes it worse for those unsuccessful Arts organisations is that ACE tells unlucky applicants that they won’t give them any “feedback” as to why they were unsuccessful. But they do make what some might read as a veiled threat: “We will only comment on organisations that have not received funding if they themselves choose to make information about their application public first”. (trans: “If you complain about us, we will diss you in public”).

      And the final insult: “I know that this will be disappointing news to receive at a time when you and your colleagues may already be feeling worried about the future”. Good, experienced people who just lost their jobs because ACE chose, for instance, to fund by a staggering £92,000 an amateur choir made up of wives of [salaried] military men. Indeed, those vital arts workers whose organisations were deemed unworthy of support may well be “worried”.

      • Firing Back says:

        In fact, the whole funding model needs to be scrapped and re-thought, with fairness in mind.

        Some of the highest-funded NPOs have CEOs sitting on ACE’s National Council – so they actually decide on their own funding. Corrupt? Oh yes.

        And what about NPOs being simply required to ‘self assess’ regarding their use of funding and their need for more?
        ‘Oh, we’re doing brilliantly in all respects – and, yes, we could do with some more dosh, since it’s easy money.’

        And ACE says, ‘Sure!’

        Yep, I’ve seen many of these eye-wateringly ‘glowing’ self assessment efforts. Corrupt? Oh yes.

        Meanwhile, many deserving organisations receive little or no funding – and those that do have to jump through heaven knows how many hoops to get mere scraps. And there’s no convenient self-assessment for them.

        Time for the grinning Darren Henley to be sacked. With his safe £170K + salary, he ‘reigns’ over one of the most corrupt and toxic funding bodies the arts world has ever known.

  • James says:

    Reading articles like this is so sad! Particularly given some of the horrific cases of misallocation of funding. Take Spensleys Nightclub in Middlesbrough – awarded £168,000. Over the past 9 years they have lost their strip club license for prostitution, were prosecuted for selling fake vodka, and have never put on an event most would consider cultural in their 15 years of exist – they are but a poorly run dive bar! £168,000!!!!!!