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Lamplight Festival cancellation costs revealed: Clash after £142,000 bill following axing of Sunderland event

City leaders have revealed the six-figure cost of cancelling a high-profile music festival on Wearside.

By Chris Binding
Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 11:30 am

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Lamplight Festival, one of the new events in Sunderland’s music and arts calendar, was due to take place over three days in August, 2022.

Headline sets from Jack Savoretti, Kaiser Chiefs and Deacon Blue were expected, as well as performances from The Futureheads and other artists from across the region.

The festival was due to take place in Mowbray Park.

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The festival was postponed twice before this summer, once in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and once again in 2021 due to uncertainty around the virus.

At a meeting of Sunderland City Council on Wednesday, June 22, at City Hall, it was revealed the cancellation costs could reach £142,000.

Councillor Linda Williams, cabinet member for Vibrant City, said the decision to cancel the festival “hasn’t been taken lightly”.

Cllr Williams told the meeting: “It was done in the context of a number of other music and cultural events that have been cancelled locally and nationally over the last year.

Liberal Democrat councillor Andrew Wood.

“As well as a number of deferred events from the past couple of years, which are now competing for calendar space this summer, we’re seeing a change in patterns from customers impacted by a variety of factors, including the pandemic and the current cost of living position.

“The timing of the decision was also important, if we had waited any longer the cost of the retention payments for the artists and the running costs would have increased.

“We’re still negotiating the final position but the cost of the cancellation will be between £132,000 and £142,000.

“The cost would have increased significantly had we delayed the decision further.”

Cllr Williams added: “If you think back to last year we were going to be looking at operating the Lamplight [Festival] with a smaller number of tickets being available so that people would be standing around in small groups – that would have potentially made us quite a loss as well.”

The cancellation costs were revealed following a question from Liberal Democrat councillor for Millfield, Andrew Wood, who went on to ask if there were any plans to review the way events were promoted.

This included plans to improve attendance at future events, with earlier ticket sales, so that “we don’t have this situation again”.

Cllr Linda Williams, responding, said a council restructure had placed events in the regeneration portfolio and that senior leaders were meeting this week to discuss “the future of events”.

The Labour council chief added: “It’s vital that we do get the advertising and marketing at the right time so that we can maximise tickets as much as possible but also work with other partners across the city to deliver the best events for our residents.”

Sunderland City Council confirmed earlier this year that the Sunderland Airshow had been called off for the third year in a row due to uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.

Councillor Andrew Wood, speaking after the full council meeting this week, said the Lamplight Festival cancellation is part of a “worrying trend” of events in Sunderland being “cancelled, postponed or underperforming”.

Cllr Wood added: “The council’s leadership urgently needs to review their events strategy.

“Sunderland Council can’t be allowed to develop a bad reputation for not being able to put on events that residents and businesses alike want to see be successful”.