Flop Soundwaves concert ditched after £60,000 loss

SWANSONG ... the audience in Bents Park, South Shields, for the Soundwaves festival last year.
SWANSONG ... the audience in Bents Park, South Shields, for the Soundwaves festival last year.

A FLOP concert which cost South Tyneside Council £60,000 last summer has been ditched.

There was outrage when the Gazette revealed the authority had spent £103,015 to stage the Soundwaves concert in South Shields’ Bents Park in August.

Figures obtained under the Freedom Of Information Act showed that the event, which attracted just 3,300 people, brought in only £43,250 in ticket sales and led to a review of the borough’s summer events programme.

Now it has emerged that Soundwaves, which last year featured performances by All Saints, Texas, Gabrielle and Lulu James, will not be repeated.

Instead, organisers of the borough’s summer entertainment programme have announced an additional free concert – bringing the number of summer gigs up to four.

The newly-named South Tyneside Festival is well known across the region for its free open-air concerts which traditionally take place on three consecutive Sundays in Bents Park during July.

This year, the council is staging an extra free event in August.

The events will take place on Sunday, July 12, 19 and 26, and on Sunday, August 2, and council bosses are promising chart-topping hits from big household names – to be announced over the coming months.

The decision to drop Soundwaves from the schedule was welcomed by Coun Jeff Milburn, who represents Cleadon and East Boldon for the Conservatives. Coun Milburn, an outspoken critic of last year’s paid-for concert, said: “We said it was a total waste of money and it is the correct decision to drop it.

“The acts on the bill were past their sell-by-date. They were antiquated. There was no way they were going attract a young audience to buy tickets.

“At a time when they were laying off so many town hall staff it was madness.”

Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for culture and leisure, said: “We are very proud of our free Sunday concerts. The live performances are among the most eagerly anticipated events in our cultural calendar attracting thousands of spectators from far and wide to our stunning seafront.

“Following a review of our events programme, which involved specialists from the culture and tourism sectors and seafront businesses, we are delighted to reveal another opportunity for visitors to South Tyneside to enjoy even more live music by the seaside with this additional Sunday concert in August.

“Summer is just around the corner and we want to make South Tyneside the place to be with its amazing programme of events.

“We want to build on the festival and make it bigger and better this year with the free August concert an extension of the wide variety of entertainment on offer.”

As well as the Sunday concerts, up and coming bands and emerging musicians from across the North East will perform on Thursday and Saturday evenings throughout June with the return of the popular live music series at the Amphitheatre at Sandhaven Beach.

The annual summer parade will take place on Saturday, July 4, with a special Alice in Wonderland theme to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Other key features of the festival and family-friendly entertainment include a Summer Fayre on Saturday, June 27, a Kid’s Fun Fest – on Tuesdays and Thursdays from July 28 to August 20 – brass band music in the Amphitheatre every Sunday throughout the summer and proms in South Marine Park on Sunday, July 5.

Last year’s event lost more than £60,000

THE £103,015 South Tyneside Council spent to stage Soundwaves last year included staff wages, private contractors and marketing.

But a Gazette Freedom Of Information Act request revealed that the event, which attracted about 3,300 revellers, brought in just £43,250 in tickets sales. The £60,000 loss came at a time when the council was making £18m of budget reductions.

Andy Silvester, campaign manager for the Taxpayers Alliance, said: “This expensive concert increasingly looks like a totally inappropriate use of taxpayers’ hard-earned cash.

“Residents pay their council tax for essential services, like pothole repair and streetlights, not to cover up the hole in the accounts caused by an ill-thought-out summer concert.

“Those who gave sign-off for this spending must be held accountable, particularly as the council is finding savings in other areas.”

The Gazette’s Freedom of Information request revealed the following about the cost of the Soundwaves concert:

•986 tickets were sold at the full adult price of £30.

•79 tickets were sold at the £20 child price.

•782 tickets were sold at the £15 adult price – once the ‘buy one, get one free’ offer was launched.

•36 tickets were sold at the £10 child price as part of the ‘buy one, get one free’ offer.

•676 tickets were issued as part of the ‘buy one, get one free’ offer.

•15 tickets were given to carers accompanying paid-for ticket holders.

•There was no interest in the ‘nominate your colleague’ promotion for businesses to obtain free tickets.

•23 council staff members worked before, during and after the concert at a cost of £3,548.

•Nine private contractors worked on the gig, providing staging, lighting PA, event safety, catering services, first aid and public toilets, at a combined cost of £63,325

•n Marketing costs amounted to £36,000 – this included promotional posters, banners flyers, £5,805 regional newspaper adverts and the hiring of external marketing firms.