Debt-laden music festival to be toned down this year

Festival returns to its home turf and adds a new venue

The biggest music festival in Tunbridge Wells, Local & Live, is to be drastically scaled back to help the organiser pay off outstanding debts.

The news will come as a blow to festival fans who last year flocked to the four-day event in their thousands. More than 300 bands took to stages around the town including those in Calverley Grounds.

It was the most successful Local & Live since the event started ten years ago. Organiser Paul Dunton added a second platform to the Calverley Grounds Main Stage last year, the Ollie Nicholls Acoustic Stage.

However, this August Bank Holiday there will be no music in Calverley Grounds. Mr Dunton said he was still paying off debts to the sound and staging companies who helped him to put on his show in 2015.

The singer-songwriter will hold the event on a smaller scale for one year only and get it back up and running properly in 2017.

The funds raised this year will go towards settling his arrears. “I want to get the finances back on an even keel,” he said.

“Some people will be disappointed. But these are community events. They need to realise that it has to be properly funded.”

After a decade of staging the town’s extravaganza, Mr Dunton felt the need to take a step back.

“It was bigger than ever last year, but then my father died just before the event. Having done it for ten years in a row – I’m exhausted.”

He added: “A smaller operation will help me get back on my feet and recharge my batteries. But we really want to keep doing it.

“I was looking forward to having a break – Glastonbury has a year off every five or six years – but I really want to keep it going.”

A remarkable 320 bands performed in 2015, and there will still be more than 100 acts to catch this year. They will be playing at three venues this time, compared to the 15 last year.

The Forum and the Grey Lady will be rocking for the full four nights, while the Sussex Arms will also host a variety of acts. “It will be ticketed but it won’t cost much,” said Mr Dunton.

He has picked out Noble Jacks, Sussex-based purveyors of ‘foot-stomping alternative folk’, as one of the bands to watch at the festival on August 26-29.

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