Newcastle festival Hit The North saw venues left empty and stages abandoned after the vast majority of acts pulled out of the 23 October event at short notice.
Some 80 acts were due to play the event on Saturday, but only 11 were left on the final lineup, with several artists tweeting that they were pulling out due to the accusations of sexual misconduct against Steve Davis, the MD of the event’s promoter SSD Concerts.
The cancellations came shortly after the publication of the results of an independent investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Davis, who resigned in April, by former SSD Concerts employees.
Bands including Idles and Lanterns on the Lake had previously said they would not work with the north-east promoter as a result of the allegations.
SSD said an independent HR investigation into the allegations found “no evidence of racism, misogyny or sexual misconduct” against Davis. The findings were released by SSD last week in a Facebook post.
The report by an independent HR specialist, found the “level of familiarity” between employees and Davis had “blurred the boundaries of professional relationships within the workplace”.
Sports Team, Lang, Noisy, The Goa Express, Andrew Cushin and Hi Sienna were among the acts to pull out of Hit The North, which was headlined by DMA’s. Local singer Andrew Cushi posted a video on Twitter explaining the decision to withdraw last minute.
A crowdfunding campaign has been set up by tour manager and event/venue manager Cole Gilroy to help cover the costs of the artists that pulled out. Gilroy said a free show went ahead on 23 October at Head of Steam in Newcastle, with several of the artists on the original Hit The North lineup performing.
Poppy Jo, member of Hi Sienna, said on Twitter, “Please keep supporting the music, the bands and small artists. This is a huge loss for some and the bands should not have to suffer at the expense of anybody else.”
The allegations against Davis first came to light earlier this year when they were anonymously posted on workplace review website Glassdoor. The comments were then shared on SSD’s Instagram after it was hacked by an ex-employee. Northumbria Police said it had identified the person responsible for hacking the account, and the 25-year-old man responsible was arrested.
Following the publication of the investigation, Steve Davis said, “This has been a very sobering process to go through. I haven’t always got things right and if this has affected anyone, I am sorry. I thank all staff past and present for their honesty and feedback which will help the business move forward. I’d like this to be a huge learning experience and I am determined that within a short period of time SSD is being recognised by others as being the fantastic, creative, safe and happy place to work that it now is.”
SSD runs four music festivals and five venues in Newcastle and Tynemouth and was responsible last year for launching a purpose-built venue to accommodate social distancing – the Virgin Money Unity Arena (pictured).
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