Redcar man’s anger as council refuses request for Ska festival money

A music promoter says he is ‘full’ after his ska music festival was refused financial support by the local council on the grounds that it is not diverse enough.

Mark Simpson approached Redcar and Cleveland Council last month for help with the costs of the Blam Blam Fever festival, which is taking place at a number of venues in Redcar this weekend.

Mr Simpson applied for a £3,900 grant after some of his sponsors withdrew, but the council rejected the request.

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He said an open funding process was being developed which would open in late fall for small-scale support grants – too late for Blam Blam Fever and Mr Simpson.

Music promoter Mark Simpson, left, and a leaflet for his ‘Blam Blam Fever’ festival in Redcar

He said Blam Blam Fever, now in its fourth year with all proceeds going to Redcar RNLI, was the only live music festival in Redcar and had the biggest weekend lineup of any ska event in the Kingdom. United this year.

In an email sharing his reaction, he said he had also ‘jumped’ at council’s request before to set up a community interest corporation (CIC) to access funding and had been ‘conducted a happy dance”.

He said: “They really don’t want tourism to come to Redcar, which I find unfathomable.”

The 52-year-old spoke to the Local Democracy Reporting Service and described how year on year the festival had doubled in size with plans underway to twin with another ska festival in Germany – ‘Freedom Sounds’ in Cologne.

He said: “It’s a win-win situation for everyone, we are promoting tourism not only nationally, but internationally.

“People come back when they’ve been to this festival, you see them throughout the year and that’s very good for the city.

“We started in February initially but changed it to summer due to covid and it just multiplied and exploded.

“We sell all the hotels from Staithes to Middlesbrough and you can’t get a bed for love or money.”

Over 30 artists are taking part in this year’s event with The Beat headlining featuring Rankin Jnr.

Previous artists include Bad Manners and The Christians.

Up to 800 people are expected throughout Friday and Saturday, as well as more than 200 musicians.

Venues include Coatham Memorial Hall, O’Gradys, The Cleveland Hotel, The Halt, Gypsy Rover Bar and Kenzies.

Mr Simpson said: ‘In previous years we’ve had people from Hamburg, Venlo in Holland, and we have a band, the Blue Beaters, from Italy, who played to 25,000 people the day before the Eurovision Song Contest. of the song.

“They come back and talk about Redcar, the warmth and friendliness.

“No matter where you go now, people will be talking about the ska scene in Redcar – we’re up there with the heavy hitters.”

He said some backing sponsors had “let him down a bit,” but amid a cost-of-living crisis, he fully understood their decisions.

“We’ve always cut well financially, but that’s because we like to invest in really good bands – that’s a fine line that you walk with,” he said.

“Last year the council provided us with £3,000 for things we wanted to do to make it more sustainable, but that was the only funding we ever received from them.

“To expand it costs you money, the facilities have to be better, you have to advertise and market it more.

“We had to lose a hall this year due to the financial restrictions I have and council money would have helped book hotel rooms for band members.”

Mr Simpson continued: “The council is very myopic about what the festival brings to businesses here.

“The people we bring in will spend money in pubs, restaurants, shops and taxis, you can look at up to £500 a person that’s a lot of money, and around 85% of the people who come here travel from elsewhere in the country. »

He added: “I was going to move it this year and was approached by other local authorities.

“To not support him and not even come to see what we are doing, what they [the council] never done, it baffles me.

“I had a councilor meeting with me a couple of months ago and was told if I was CIC I could apply for funds, they were giving me ideas that the funding was there.

“Then, after having an emergency meeting, there was apparently no funding.

“They said they will not support any music event with the money they allocate to family events and arts and crafts, which does not help the economy night or day.

“I wish they were more involved in the consultancy but you don’t get any feedback, it’s a closed book unless they are involved in something themselves.

“They categorize the event as not being diverse enough which I don’t understand, we encourage people from all types of ethnic minorities to come and the band I led was The Equators – they’re all black .”

‘Seems to be whose face matches’

Redcar councilor Billy Wells, who along with councilor Mike Lockwood unsuccessfully approached council leader Mary Lanigan for help on Mr Simpson’s behalf, said the festival could be lost to Redcar and Cleveland and go elsewhere.

Cllr Wells said: ‘It’s bringing hundreds of people to Redcar but the council says they have no money.

“They say the Ska festival isn’t diverse enough, but you can’t be more diverse.

“Every business and guest house gets something out of it when it’s open, people come from all over, but we can’t give them a few grand.”

Cllr Wells said the decision to refuse Mr Simpson was made by officers without consultation with members, which ‘a mockery of democracy’.

The board said it appreciated the festival’s contribution to the local music scene and was committed to providing advice and guidance in terms of a business development model for the event.

He said relevant councilors have been kept informed of the decision not to offer financial support to the festival at this time.

A spokesperson said: “The council fully supports and welcomes all kinds of festivals and events that make our borough such a vibrant place to live and visit.

“We currently do not have an open funding round, however, we will have a small grants round coming up this fall which applicable organizations can apply to and the organizer will be notified when this is available for applications.

“Council officers have worked with the festival organizer to offer business planning support and will continue with this support.

“We hope to continue our dialogue with the organizers of the ska festival in the future and wish them every success.”

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