Chaos and bad feeling behind cancellation of Summerfest event is laid bare in angry Whatsapp messages
The full extent of the chaos and bad feeling which lay behind the cancellation of the Summerfest music festival can now be laid bare.
The three-day event, co-organised by former cherry and whites star Andy Gregory and sports event promoter Tony Baldwin, both from Wigan, was scrapped at the eleventh hour last year. None of the thousands of ticketholders has received a penny back from the company, Summerfest Ltd, which has since gone into liquidation.
Now a series of Whatsapp messages between Mr Baldwin and an un-named business partner has been shared with Wigan Today, giving a glimpse of the chaos behind the scenes of the ill-fated enterprise.
They are sure to stoke more fury from ticketholders, some of whom spent hundreds of pounds on VIP tickets but which will now not be refunded after Mr Gregory and Mr Baldwin were declared bankrupt.
The Whatsapp messages seen by Wigan Today go back as far as May 2020. As the date of the event grows ever nearer the exchanges become increasingly bad-tempered and acrimonious.
Eventually Mr Baldwin breaks off all communication with the partner, who helped broker a six-figure investment in the festival.
The 1980s pop-themed event was originally due to be held at Wigan’s DW Stadium, before Blackburn Rovers agreed to host the festival at their Ewood Park ground over the spring bank holiday weekend of 2022.
The stellar line up included headliners The Human League, Boy George & Culture Club, and UB40.
To begin with, the exchanges between Mr Baldwin and the partner are friendly.
Mr Baldwin boasts in one message from June 2021: “Culture Club for the Saturday night. Gonna be a biggie this pal”, and later he refers to the event as a “100% banker.”
He then starts putting pressure on the business partner to hurry up with raising the money, saying: “This week things will move on another stage so I need to know I’ve got the financial backing as this is getting to be the biggest festival in the north bar none!!”
In another message he says: “I’ve got 9 out of 13 big name artists with contracts on my desk so it has to happen,” and later: “Agent just been on I’m gonna lose the line up if I don’t get it sorted asap!... It’s really time critical now mate.”
Once the six-figure sum has been handed over and a contract drawn up, the partner tells Mr Baldwin: “I’m stoked for this event massively. If I wasn’t then I wouldn’t have got involved. I’m really excited for it as an event and all us lot involved.”
But soon the tone of the messages begins to darken as trust between the parties collapses. By October 2021, Mr Baldwin is refusing to have a face-to-face meeting with investors claiming he’s too busy, prompting this response: “Well I’m not being funny but to be honest mate without me you wouldn’t be having sponsors meetings… Now you can be busy all you want. But if we don’t start getting some form of respect and inclusion from you lot then give us our money back. We’ve give(n) you 150k mate and haven’t heard f*** all since you got it.”
Later the business partner tells Mr Baldwin: “I don’t appreciate… going around cap in hand for you, getting the money for you, putting up with 9 million begging calls for money for you… to then be dismissed and see absolutely nothing of what you promised.
"All I have done is fought for YOU to get YOUR investment for YOUR festival… At the end of the day the deal was I brought you the investment to get things started. I have done that and honoured my part of the deal.”
But Mr Baldwin continues to ignore messages from the partner who helped bring in the investment, which leads the partner to say in January of 2022: “Three months on and still no communication from you to me. You’re a joke Tony. Your behaviour is disgusting.”
His final message, sent in April 2022 - just a month before the festival was due to go ahead and was then cancelled - reads: “What a joke you are!! Not even had the decency to contact anyone.”
In a further blow to Summerfest ticketholders who were left out of pocket by the event’s sudden cancellation, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has told them they will not be investigating.
The Intelligence Division of the SFO sent out a mass email to complainants, which read: “The SFO has carefully reviewed all of the information relating to this matter. I must inform you, however, that the SFO will not be launching an investigation into this matter as it is not a matter that falls within the Director’s Statement of Principle. As a small and highly specialised agency, we are required to deploy our resources in a targeted and measured way. Accordingly, no further action will be taken by us.
“We must stress that this is not the same as making a determination on whether there is a criminal case to answer, but rather that the SFO is not the appropriate agency to pursue this.
"All individuals who refer allegations to the SFO have recourse to the police, in the event that we do not decide to launch an investigation. If you wish to pursue this issue with a UK law enforcement agency, you are able to report it to your local constabulary.
"Due to the directors now being declared bankrupt and the current company status, you may wish to report this matter to the Insolvency Service.”
A story printed in the Wigan Observer of March 7 attributed quotes to Mr Baldwin which should have been attributed to Mr Gregory. We apologise for the error.