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Cast and crew members claim musicals producer owes them thousands

An advert for Momentous Musicals, which is at the centre of a pay dispute.
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Actors, backstage staff and suppliers are fighting to recoup thousands of pounds they claim they are owed by production company Speckulation Entertainment.

The company, headed by Neil Eckersley, is reported to owe money to people who have worked on its projects, including last year’s Christmas in New York shows, and Momentous Musicals, starring Gareth Gates and John Owen-Jones.

According to documents seen by The Stage, Speckulation has around 20 county court judgements against it – dating back to 2010 – and is currently the subject of a winding up petition, whereby an organisation can try and force the closure of a company through the courts.

The petition was launched by PR company Target Live in 2013 and is due to be heard next week.

Problems with the company’s payments surfaced this month, when The Stage was contacted by members of the backstage team for Momentous Musicals. Although some members of the cast – including Gates – are understood to have been paid, backstage staff claim they are collectively owed thousands for their work on the show.

The Stage spoke to four individuals who say they are owed money for their work on Momentous Musicals. One, sound engineer Will Jackson, claims he is owed around £1,000.

He said he had a county court judgement that ruled in his favour, and was angry that Eckersley had recently announced plans to mount a new production with a sequel to the musical Fame - although this is not currently believed to be linked to Speckulation.

"I was expecting him to do something else, but I would like to make sure he can't produce it. I will do everything I can to make sure people know [what he did],” Jackson said.

Backstage union BECTU said the union has an ‘Ask First’ list, which details companies its members have "alleged a failure to properly observe obligations to them”.

“We have written and spoken to Speckulation Entertainment urging them to resolve this matter and, unusually, they have not given us a satisfactory reply, so we will be listing them and advising members about how they can recover the debts owing to them,” the union said.

Equity has also confirmed that it is assisting a performer in trying to secure money owed to them for the production. The union added that it was also representing a member on a further case regarding Speckulation Entertainment.

It is also alleged that Speckulation owes more than £4,000 to lighting and sound rental company DBS Solutions. The company said cheques it received from Eckersley for Speckulation’s Christmas in New York shows, staged last year, bounced.

Chris Bogg, from DBS Solutions, said: “We would love nothing more than to ensure that suppliers and freelance engineers, designers and subcontractors understand what they are getting into when they undertake work for Speckulation.”

A spokesman for Speckulation Entertainment said: “Anyone holding a legitimate, undisputed claim will be paid in full, and is advised to contact the company directly. The assertion made by Equity is factually incorrect and legally contentious. It is the subject of proceedings in which we are bound by a duty of confidentiality and therefore unable to comment. We are engaged in a long-standing dispute with Target Live. All undisputed sums due to them have been paid in full and their claim will be dismissed.”

He added: “Any judgements are invariably the result of disputes. Most have been settled. Others remain disputed and are the subject of legal proceedings. Speckulation Entertainment continues to trade and will continue to do so as it has for six years.

“We have never felt the need to air our private disputes in public and regret that others have chosen to do so in this way. Suffice to say that the company will meet any legitimate obligations it may have.”

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