Wowfest, the new festival which was planned for 17-19 August on the Isle of Wight and featuring UB40, Alabama 3, Echo & The Bunnymen and Paul Okenfold amongst others, has been cancelled, adding to a growing list of UK events that have been pulled this year. The event had caused some concern after local traders, residents and press complained that two directors of the organising company, Wow Festivals Ltd, Philip Snellen and Geri Ward, had previously been involved in the Isle of Wight Jazz Festivals in 2007 and 2008 and the Island’s Folk and Blues & Festival which reportedly left a trail of debts owed to suppliers and musicians. Previous line up announcements for the Festival had included Annie Lennox, Robert Plant, Paulo Nutini and Elbow.
Wow Festivals Limited issued a statement saying
“Following consultations and full consideration, it is with heavy hearts and much regret that we have been forced to announce the postponement of WOWfest 2012.
Putting the festival together, in what is proving to be a very challenging year and with damage inflicted by anti-festival lobbyists, was more difficult than we anticipated. We have spent the last year fighting hard to establish and keep WOWfest in the calendar.
Unfortunately circumstances have dictated that this is no longer possible to achieve in 2012.
Although great confidence had initially been shown by the Isle of Wight Council to grant a Premises License for 18,000 rising to 22,000 capacity over a three year period and to further grant permission to run an event of that size under the Isle of Wight Act there are many forces trying to prevent the event happening. There is no doubt of the WOWfest team operational capabilities to deliver such an event.
However, the Isle of Wight Act conditions imposed by the council on the 18th May required a lump sum payment of over £140,000 for Council and Emergency Services to be brought forward to the 31st May. The conditions also stipulated the need for a financial bond of an unspecified and potentially unlimited amount to be made to the Isle of Wight Council.”
The Local Authority imposed some 100 new conditions on May 18th as well as the £142,215 payment for police, fire and council costs saying that the issue of making organisers pay costs in advance was because Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary had said in a written submission presented to the meeting that "The rationale for this request is due to the amount of information we have received in relation to the financial standing of the promoters and their previous history with payments of monies owed.”
Organisers say that a plan to downsize to a smaller 5,000 capacity event also met with resistance from the Police. The Police said the move, to exclude the event from the Isle of Wight Act, still meant that they had “grounds for believing the promoters of Wowfest do not have the financial capacity to ensure that this public event can be provided safely and without causing undue disruption to the community.
Wow Festivals Limited say full ticket refunds will be made.