Doune the Rabbit Hole festival 'has amassed over £1m of unpaid bills'

Organisers blamed a 'campaign of misinformation' from the Bectu union for the festival’s downfall.

Doune the Rabbit Hole festival ‘has amassed over £1m of unpaid bills’ unions claim Website

Unions have claimed a cancelled music festival has amassed over £1m of unpaid bills over the last few years and deposits to performers have not been paid upfront.

Doune the Rabbit Hole was set to return to the Cardross Estate in Stirling from July 21 until July 23.

“Devastated” organisers announced on Wednesday that the event was cancelled, less than a day after ticket sales were suspended on the website.

They blamed a “campaign of misinformation” from the Bectu union for the festival’s downfall.

The festival has faced a number of controversies after being accused of failing to pay artists and technicians in 2022.

Festival creator, and former diplomat and blogger Craig Murray previously revealed that financial issues which led to the festival’s liquidation in 2022 were “his fault” and confirmed a repayment plan to those owed money was in place.

But in recent weeks, the Bectu union claimed that the company still owes “tens of thousands of pounds” to performers and crews who performed and worked at last year’s event and “multiple previous festivals”.

In a joint statement, Bectu, The Musicians’ Union and Equity said that the cancellation of the festival was “unfortunate”.

It read: “Over the last few years this festival has amassed well over £1m pounds in unpaid bills to both bands and staff (£800,000 in 2022 alone). Many people including the headline bands last year were paid nothing other than their deposits, in some cases bands are owed tens of thousands of pounds with no hope of getting their final payments, and this year’s cancellation will impact yet more bands and staff.”

The unions said that they have “tried to have a constructive dialogue with organisers” however, the undertakings which were offered “were not forthcoming”.

The statement said: “The organisers said that they would share sales figures in order to reassure us that they would make enough profit this year to begin to repay the debts owed by the previous festival. They stated their intention to repay those debts over three years. They have not provided any such information and that undertaking to repay those debts is now in jeopardy.

“In a radio interview on Good Morning Scotland on June 8 Craig Murray, one of the festival’s organisers, stated that Doune the Rabbit Hole currently has ticket sales of £5,000 per week, but needs ticket sales of £25,000 per week to be on target. 

“That he sought to blame trade unions, and by implication the very people who work so hard at the festival each year, was incredibly disappointing.”

The unions agreed with organisers that full deposits would be offered up front to those considering working at the festival, however said that this has not happened.

“Once again those who had agreed to perform and work at this year’s festival will be left out of pocket by the failure of those organising the event,” the unions said.

It concluded: “As trade unions we are concerned that the festival was able to enter liquidation last year and be reborn so quickly with so many of the same faces involved, and that concern has been borne out with so many of the same issues this year. 

“We would urge any members affected by the cancellation to make contact with their trade union and will provide all the support we can.”

On Wednesday, Doune the Rabbit Hole organisers said “challenges posed by sustained media and social media campaigns spurred on by Bectu, to try and prevent them from going ahead using conjecture, misinformation and rumour presented in bad faith”.

Organisers went on to apologise that they were unable to go ahead with the event, and added that they will be “seeking to take action against Bectu”, including a letter from the festival’s lawyer addressed to the union.

Ticket holders have been urged to contact their bank or credit provider and “explain the situation” to obtain a refund.

The statement added: “In terms of refunds, we must urge you to contact your bank/credit card provider directly to process a refund, explain the situation to them and they should, in most cases, be able to help recover your money. For the next few weeks someone will be checking our email address, so if you have any questions about this process please feel free to email there. 

“Unfortunately, Bectu were among those who forced our hand in saying we would pay ALL of our bills in advance to supply chain companies (whilst simultaneously working in the media to prevent the event from going ahead), as a result we have already paid out almost every single penny of the event’s income towards those deposits. 

“That means the safest and quickest way for our customers to get a refund is to contact their card provider and explain the situation swiftly. The return of Volunteer Deposits has already been initiated, so if that applies to you, you’ll see the funds in your account already.”

Organisers concluded that “this is definitely ‘it’ for Doune the Rabbit Hole”, adding that the festival will not return in the future.

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