SLEN Member Statement
DTRH May statement
We have further information which we think is important to share with our members and the wider public. If you haven't read our previous statements please Read them here to get some background.
For those without time to read the whole post, key information is BECTU and SLEN are actively now advising against working for, going to, or supporting DTRH for a multitude of reasons listed in detail below, please feel free to share this post to colleges friends and others.
When the organisers contacted our branch in December 2022 they claimed that no one was owed any money from any of the festivals previous to 2022. We already knew that this was not true. When it was pointed out to them that at least one company was owed thousands of pounds from Festival and Beverage (the company now back running this year's festival) the response was “oh yes - except for them there is no-one else”. They also promised to contact that company and sort out payment terms. The company received two emails with all the usual excuses of why they could not pay. Then no response. A further email eventually was responded to with more excuses. That company is now going to seek redress through legal means. We have also found other companies that are owed from multiple previous festivals. It is disappointing that the organisers were willing to mislead us in our very first conversation. Sadly this attitude of continual non payment followed by excuses and empty promises seems to be the business model they follow.
When BECTU and Musicians Union officials met with organisers in march they were told ticket sales were at 2000 and that the break even figure was 4000 with a capacity of about 5000 in total. We believe that those 2000 sales will have brought in at least £400,000. We were also told that any company that agreed to work this year would have their money up front. This clearly has not happened and with the amount of money that has been brought in so far from ticket sales we see no reason production companies should have at least been confirmed and paid by now. We know of a number of companies enquiring about this directly with the organisers and are yet to get any proper answers or any real payment plans.
Also at this meeting the union officials were told that DTRH would allow SLEN reps would be able to do safety and wellbeing visits to the site. This offer has now been rescinded.
Recently DTRH posted adverts for volunteers to help at the festival. To do so volunteers need to pay a deposit to the festival to ensure that they complete their volunteer roles. Other unions have already written about their disagreement with such a system which is not an unusual thing to happen. We do not agree with this practice However in many cases the money is held safely and securely outside of the festival organisers. In the case of Glastonbury it is Oxfam who holds the money. For DTRH the money is being held in a company called Volunteer Heros(sic). This company was set up in January 2023 by one of the people running the volunteers for the festival. Organisers have claimed that this provides an “unconnected” place to store the money. We completely disagree that this company is unconnected.
The Scottish Volunteer Charter states that volunteering is a “choice undertaken of one’s own free will and a choice not motivated for financial gain or for a wage or salary” and that if there is any “any compulsion, threat of sanctions or force, then any such activity is not volunteering”. We believe both of these points are being ignored in the demanding of a deposit.
We also have serious concerns about the roles the volunteers are being asked to fill. In the advert DTRH are asking for people to build fences, construct marquees, work in catering, and build roads. Also during the festival to work behind bars, stewarding, park cars and to fulfil technical backstage roles. All of these jobs require specific training, insurance and PPE amongst other requirements and break many of the other volunteer charter statements concerning using volunteers to undercut pay and conditions of service, to reduce contract costs or to bypass minimum wage legislation. Using volunteers in safety critical roles is something that the organisers told officials at the March meeting that they would not do this year. Clearly they have changed their minds.
BECTU official Paul McManus contacted DTRH to discuss what we perceive as an increase in the use of volunteers since last year and our safety concerns. The response can only be described as a vitriolic rant, claiming our stance was “nonsensical” and that we need to “do some research and frankly wake up and realise we would have to target the entire industry”. We are aware this practice takes place across industry and this is something we intend to address. He also claimed that this is “far from exploitative or morally indefensible” and that our organisation is “clearly completely ignorant of what has been standard practice for years”. Bectu will be checking with HMRC and Scot Gov to see who is correct.
We are well aware of the issues onsite last year. Catering was inedible and people refused to eat it. There was only one water outlet for much of the build due to the supply being tapped from a Scottish Water outlet without the company's knowledge or permission. One of the SLEN committee was on site with a headline band (who have still not been paid) and saw a number of H&S concerns including heavy plant moving across public areas with no escort while the festival was open. DTRH claimed that these issues were down to the lack of professionalism and ability of the production team they brought in - something we completely refute as we know many of the people working there. They worked under extreme pressure and were not supported by the organisers in any way.
We also know that the capacity of the festival was cut a number of days before the show as a condition of DTRH receiving a licence due to safety concerns of the emergency services.
The organisers have refused to answer our questions on how ticket sales are going or about the upfront payments for people agreeing to work the festival. In the meeting in March The organisers assured us that if the festival was not going to at least break even this year then they would not hold it. Considering all the other promises and assurances that we have had which have been broken or not followed through we can only doubt this promise as well.
At this point we are now advising members, non members and artists to avoid this festival. We would call on any acts who have agreed to play to seriously consider whether they want to play at a festival which owes so much money. The organisers seem to be making as many excuses as possible to not even start paying people back or holding good on their promise of upfront payment. Many acts from last year are owed tens of thousands of pounds and ultimately made a loss playing the festival due to having to pay their crew etc.
No one wants to see a festival not happen. We work in this industry to provide entertainment and excitement for as many people as possible. It saddens us that we feel the need to advise people not to work at Doune The Rabbit Hole. But with total debts from last year of over £800,000 which we now do not believe the organisers will be able to pay back however much they claim they want to, we feel we have no choice.
In an article on the STV website in March the organisers said that the financial failure of Doune The Rabbit Hole 2022 was their fault. SInce they have taken moral responsibility for the massive debts they incurred in 2022, maybe he should take financial responsibility as well and dip into their own pockets to repay the debts this financial mismanagement has caused.
SLEN Member Statement
Statement 30th March 2023
DTRH statement update
We want to provide a follow up to our letter to our members which we posted here with a bit more explanation of our position over DTRH.
We want to clarify that BECTU and MU do not “support” the running of DTRH 2023 and we considered our statements carefully to avoid giving the impression that we do support it. Our members contacted us to try and get them money that they are owed by the festival. We are doing what we can to make this happen.
The joint decision not to campaign for the festival to be banned for now was based on a couple of important considerations.
Firstly Stirling council made it very clear to us that the licensing process is legally a strictly administrative process and provided any organisers meet the administrative and operational requirements then the council has no authority to prevent them getting a licence.Sadly the fact that they owe a great deal of money has no part in that process. BECTU and the MU have subsequently raised this with the Scottish government and have urged them to bring forward legislation to give local authorities the powers to withhold licences from organisations who don’t operate in a financially responsible way.
Secondly we are aware that a number of supply companies, Technical crews and Artists have signed up for the 2023 festival already. They have done this because of the “100% in advance” guarantee and in the hope that the smaller festival this year may generate some profits to start paying back people and companies.
As we said in the email to our members we fully appreciate that many people will be rightly sceptical that anyone will see any of their money back but the only other alternative is no one gets any money back at all.
We still remain sceptical that they will get a festival off the ground this year or if they do that it will make any profits but given that they engaged with us and are committed to keeping BECTU and the MU updated on the financial situation we felt that we shouldn’t seek to block the event just yet on the slim chance that people owed money from last year might get something back.
This is not our final position on this by any means. If DTRH do not keep the agreements they have made on the prepayments or the promise not to hold a festival if it looks like losing money again then we will look at what further actions we can take.
SLEN Letter to Branch Members
Statement 7th March 2023
From:Paul McManusTo:Scottish Live Events Network Branch
Date:17 March 2023
Doune The Rabbit Hole Festival.
Dear BECTU Member Doune the Rabbit Hole Festival update On Monday 6 March, Caroline Sewell from the Musicians Union, and I met Craig and Jamie Murray for a discussion about the money they owe from last years DTRH Festival and about their plans for a 2023 festival. Essentially they explained that they tried to run a significantly bigger festival in 2022 in order to try and recoup money they had lost through the festivals in 2020 and 2021 that were cancelled due to COVID. They recognise that this was an overly ambitious plan which only succeeded in running up more debt. They say that they are scaling back the 2023 festival to four stages with a capacity of around 5000 tickets. On their projected figures they have apparently sold just under half the tickets they need to break even in 2023 and committed to feed back to the MU and BECTU on how ticket sales go over the coming months. If they manage to sell all 5000 tickets they expect to be able to pay back around £200, 000 of their existing debt to suppliers artists and crews and aim to clear all the debt within three years. We also raised a number of concerns around catering, safety and wellbeing and made it clear to them what we expect in regard to this. For their part DTRH agreed that it would be helpful to agree to our request that reps from our Live Events branch can do safety and wellbeing visits to the festival site. For this year they say that they are guaranteeing that anyone who agrees to work on the 2023 festival is being given a guarantee of full 100% payment in advance of the festival. Obviously the only chance for anyone to get their money back from last year is if the 2023 festival makes a profit which I know many of you will have your doubts about. However overall, having discussed matters in detail with them , Caroline and I feel that at this stage it would not benefit our members if we tried to stop the festival particularly as they are guaranteeing 100% payment in advance. Therefore if you choose to work on DTRH 2023 please make sure you have a very clear agreement in writing setting out exactly what you will be paid and when that will be paid. If any agreed payments are late or they miss any agreed deadline with you then we would advise you to stop work immediately and contact BECTU immediately. Please feel free to contact me if you have any queries on this. Regards Paul McManus Negotiations Officer Scotland
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SLEN Member Statement
Statement 14th December 2022
SLEN -Statement on Doune the Rabbit Hole
Recently Scottish Live Events Network contacted Alan Govan about some of our members outstanding invoices from both this and last year's Doune The Rabbit Hole. In his response Alan assured us that he was intending to pay everybody, that they were just waiting on money being gifted to them and that they were holding off on advertising ticket sales for next year until the invoices for this year were paid. It was very similar to the emails everyone else had with a long list of excuses but no real time scale for making payment.
We now learn that the company has been liquidated, a new one has sprung up in its place and that early bird tickets are being advertised. BECTU has contacted Alan Govan about this move and is pursuing them for monies owed to members.
This is quite simply an insult to everyone who is owed money for this event. We would advise anyone who gets the notice of liquidation through to put in a claim, something is always better than nothing.
We have highlighted DTRH’s failure to pay its debts to Event Scotland, Creative Scotland, and the Scottish Government and are lobbying them to introduce more cohesive standards and communication across the events licensing system and for both Scot Gov and local authorities to be more aware of promoters' financial histories and their ability and willingness to pay their bills before granting them a licence. This proposal has been met with interest and we hope to move forward with this at the start of 2023. We are also lobbying Stirling Council not to grant any further licences to this event until all debts have been paid.
We will also be speaking to the local councils who gave out the licences this year to a number of events which have not paid their bills and pushing them to be more stringent in their decision making. We will also be putting in objections for any licence application that comes for an organiser who is known for not paying. If anyone has any information which they think might help either now or in the future please get in touch.
From just two promoters alone over two years we estimate that over a quarter of a million pounds has been removed from the supply chain because of production companies and artists not getting paid. Also a lot of people bought tickets to see bands which they did not get to see because of what we believe to be very shady business practices. It cannot be allowed to continue.
We would ask all suppliers, production companies, self employed etc. to consider very carefully before working with some of these organisers. If they haven't paid the previous companies they employed then exactly what assurances does anyone have that they would get paid. Make sure you get at least a 50% deposit at time of booking and the rest before the doors open. If they can’t pay you by then it’s very possible they won’t pay you at all. If any members are having problems getting paid, then Bectu has a monies owed service, where they will help chase members unpaid invoices and offer legal advice should it need to go to the small claims court.
BECTU also operate an “ask first” list for members which identifies Companies that have failed to meet their contractual obligations to members. Members should contact BECTU first for further info if they are offered work by anyone on the Ask First list.