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Woodstock 50 loses venue

By | Published on Tuesday 11 June 2019

Woodstock 50

In the ongoing saga of Woodstock’s 50th anniversary event there is yet another new chapter. The event has now lost its venue, which is, at the very least, quite careless.

The Watkins Glen International motor racing track, where the festival was due to take place, announced yesterday that it would no longer be hosting the event. In a statement it said: “Watkins Glen International terminated the site licence for Woodstock pursuant to provisions of the contract. As such, WGI will not be hosting the Woodstock 50 Festival”.

In keeping with the public statements issued throughout Woodstock 50’s various mishaps, organisers are insisting that the show will go on. Organiser Gregory Peck said in a statement that his team are already “in discussions with another venue”, and expect to announce where the event will now take place in the next few weeks.

This is the latest in a series of misfortunes that have befallen Woodstock 50. The Woodstock company was initially working with a division of marketing group Dentsu in order to stage the event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original festival. But then, in April, Dentsu bailed on the project and duly announced that the festival was therefore cancelled.

That then resulted in legal action from the Woodstock company, which said that its financial backer had no right to unilaterally cancel the festival, which is due to take place in August. And last month a New York judge agreed that, while the contract between Woodstock and Dentsu included provisions for the latter to either cancel the partnership or take more active control of the event, it didn’t allow the marketing firm to cancel the whole show.

There are still legal proceedings pending over $17.8 million of funding for the festival that Dentsu withdrew from the event’s bank account when it pulled out. The Woodstock company argues that it should be allowed to keep that money, while Dentsu reckons it is its to take back. That money is now being held in escrow while a court decision is awaited. Meanwhile, Woodstock is looking for new financial backing.

With ongoing questions over financing, some speculation as to what Dentsu pulling meant for its contracts with the artists booked to perform, and now the small matter of losing the venue, you might think that it’s not looking especially good for Woodstock 50. However, throughout all of this, organisers have remained upbeat – publicly at least.

Still, losing the venue might actually be a positive thing. Court documents in the battle between Densu and Woodstock showed that one of the issues at hand was related to Watkins Glen. While the Woodstock 50 team had budgeted and planned for a 150,000 capacity event, the venue had been officially given a capacity of 60,000.

Speaking to the Poughkeepsie Journal, Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn said that Watkins Glen International’s decision to tear up its contract was “a major disappointment” to local government officials, who had “looked forward to hosting this iconic event in our community”.

Although he added: “While today’s announcement is difficult to absorb, it is not completely unexpected, given the well-publicised delays related to this planned event. We commend Watkins Glen International for their actions, which we feel are in the overall best interest of the community”.

A countdown on the Woodstock website tells us that there are now just 66 days to go before the festival is due to begin. Despite tickets not yet being on sale, the homepage is also covered with messages of support and a statement from the Woodstock 50 organisers, which reads: “Our intention holds firm. To deliver a world-class, one-in-lifetime festival to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. To honour a cultural icon that changed the way we think about music and togetherness… and will do so again”.

Of course, the original Woodstock festival had similar problems, in that it struggled to find a venue and then didn’t have enough time to prepare the site properly. Then 400,000 people turned up to the 50,000 capacity site and most left early due to heavy rain. So, maybe all the chaos around Woodstock 50 makes this a proper celebration of the original.



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