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Festival Republic cancels Norwegian festival, partly blames new Danish rival

By | Published on Friday 3 October 2014

Hove Festival

Festival Republic has announced that the 2015 edition of its Hove Festival in Norway will not take place, with a pretty loaded statement complaining about the public funding of the new Tinderbox Festival in Denmark – a sister event to Sweden’s Bråvalla.

The statement reads: “It is with a great deal of regret that Festival Republic have announced that Hove Festival will not happen in 2015. The Scandinavian market has always been busy and the recent addition of Tinderbox Festival with a significant public subsidiary will make what was a tough event economically into an almost impossible one without similar level of support from the public institutions. We hope that the discussions in 2015 will lead to Hove making a return”.

Hove has been held annually on the Norwegian island of Tromøy since 2007, and was acquired by Festival Republic in 2008 after the second edition sent it bankrupt. Tinderbox, meanwhile, is due to hold its first edition in June next year in Odense, Denmark. This has been somewhat controversial because it will receive around £2.5 million in funding from the local council over the next ten years, with an additional £300,000 investment by local government to refurbish the festival site near the forest of Tusindårsskoven.

Announcing the new festival last month, Odense’s mayor Anker Boye said: “We are proud that such established and competent people have agreed to work with us. We are sure that Odense, its residents, associations, hotels and other businesses will benefit greatly from the festival”.

Despite Tinderbox only having a capacity of 25,000 in year one – with plans to grow to 45,000 by 2019 – there were accusations of unfair competition from nearby festivals, with Roskilde Festival, Smukfest, Nibe Festival and Jelling Musikfestival all reportedly boycotting the Danish booking agencies recently announced as being involved in the new event, Skandinavian and Beatbox. Along with German booking agency and festival promoter FKP Scorpio, they are linked to new company Tinderbox Entertainment.

However, while Mads Sørensen and Beatbox Entertainment are part of that venture, its sister booking agency Beatbox Booking’s director Peter Sørensen told CMU yesterday that his company had no direct involvement itself in organising the new festival (indeed the two Beatbox companies are now separate). He declined to comment further, though in an email to his clients, published recently by Danish music magazine Gaffa, he expressed surprise that festivals he had worked with closely for many years had so quickly moved to boycott his agency.

Meanwhile, on the cancellation of the Hove Festival in particular, Mads Sørensen told CMU: “It is a mystery how a festival in Denmark can lead to a festival in Norway being cancelled. I suggest you go look at their figures over the years. Maybe that is where the true reason is? Just a thought”.

Speaking to Norway’s Aftenposten yesterday, mayor of Arendal, Einar Halvorsen, whose jurisdiction includes Hove-hosting Tromøy, said that he hoped to find a new promoter to bring a festival to the area next year, and also suggested that losses made at Festival Republic’s event in recent years may have been partly to blame for the decision to not go ahead next year. Indeed, Aftenposten says that ticket sales were down in 2013, leading to losses on the event, though the festival’s board stated in a report that better results were expected this year.

Of course Festival Republic conceded in its statement that Hove was already a “tough event economically”, and might add that – while a Norwegian festival may not directly compete for ticket buyers with a new event in Denmark – both events are competing for headline talent in a relatively small festival market, with the better funded Danish event possibly in a stronger position to go for the big names.

One Danish newspaper speculated that all this is really linked to existing tensions between the big players in the European festivals sector, which includes FKP Scorpio. And earlier this year, reports Politiken, head of the Danish Rock Council, Gunnar Madsen, said that placing a new festival so close to the Roskilde site (and dates) would be a “declaration of war”.