Theatre company HighTide is demanding more than £16,000 from a London council as compensation for a collapsed festival it had been planning with the local authority.
HighTide had been due to stage the HighTide Festival Walthamstow in September, but was forced to cancel it when Waltham Forest Council pulled its £35,000 funding for the event. The Stage has seen emails confirming the council’s planned £35,000 towards the festival.
In a letter to the local authority, it said it had been left facing a £30,000 deficit in this financial year as a result, down from a budgeted surplus of £10,000.
It added it had committed £16,969 towards the festival prior to its cancellation and has now demanded the council pay the sum back.
“We would like to resolve this dispute, and to achieve that would require Waltham Forest Council reimbursing HighTide for the £16,969 costs the charity has incurred on the project so far,” outgoing artistic director Steve Atkinson said in the letter.
The letter said the theatre company had been planning to present six shows at the festival and that it had not been able to renege on some of the contracts it had in place. It said this had left it liable to “pay salaries and ongoing costs irrespective of the performances taking place”.
It warned that, without the festival, it has had to cancel “planned funding approaches that we anticipated would have gone towards our core costs”.
“Consequently we are facing an unplanned deficit on the financial year of around £30,000, down from a budgeted surplus of £10,000.”
It said the timing of the funding withdrawal was “critical”.
“One month out from going on sale, and four and a half months out from opening, is too late in our planning to avoid costs, to find an alternative that could have seen HighTide Festival Walthamstow 2019 reconciled or delivered elsewhere, and to revise the fundraising strategy for the year to avoid a deficit,” the letter added.
The letter was sent at the beginning of June, but Atkinson said on Twitter that he had not yet received a response.
Four weeks ago @_HighTide_ wrote to senior representatives @wfcouncil detailing the difficulties we face following their decision to cancel funding for HighTide Festival Walthamstow. Two weeks later we chased for a response. We still haven’t had any reply or acknowledgement. pic.twitter.com/hbsGV2baOB
— Steven Atkinson (@SteveAtkinson84) July 8, 2019
Atkinson, who leaves at the end of October this year, told The Stage it was “upsetting to have not only been put in this vulnerable position by Waltham Forest Council, but to have since then been stonewalled out of all our attempts to find a resolution”.
He added it was “personally upsetting”, because he had made a decision to leave the company “knowing that we had acclimated more than £100,000 in reserves to enable my successor’s success”.
“But Waltham Forest’s decision is set to reduce this fund by half to meet our shortfall, which is a very unfair position for HighTide to be forced in to by London’s first Borough of Culture,” he added.
Waltham Forest Council said it had applied for external funding in 2017 and 2018 to go towards HighTide Festival in Walthamstow. It said this had not been possible during its year as London Borough of Culture as it had applied separately to the same body to assist that programme.
“We did enter into discussions with the organisers of the Hightide Festival around a revised programme taking place this year but informed them in April that we would not be able to offer funding for their proposal. No formal contract was ever signed and when we were contacted about the commitments Hightide Festival had made we offered free communication and marketing support. This was not taken up and Hightide Festival then cancelled the festival,” it added.