A festival in Walthamstow run by theatre company HighTide has been cancelled after the local council withdrew its support, leaving up to 70 people out of work.
HighTide’s third annual festival in the north-east London district, which was named the first London Borough of Culture, had been due to take place from September 17 to 29.
The theatre company’s artistic director Steven Atkinson said that 25 artists were already on contracts for the event, which would have employed up to 70 people.
According to Atkinson, HighTide recieved an email “out of the blue” at the end of April from Waltham Forest Council saying that the local authority was no longer going to support the festival.
A statement from HighTide said: “We’re gutted that midway through planning the third HighTide Festival Walthamstow, a high-profile annual event that helped secure Waltham Forest’s place as the first London Borough of Culture, the council reneged on its commission, effectively cancelling the festival.
“Our concern is supporting all the artists who are now unable to perform, and preserving the legacy of the past two festivals, which involved hundreds of hours of input from local volunteers.”
Atkinson said that the council had been due to put tens of thousands of pounds into the festival.
He told The Stage: “Now we’ve got three problems. The first is an artistic issue, as we were planning to present loads of plays by new and up-and-coming artists.
“Secondly, we were planning to get over 10,000 people to the festival, and that would have been a really local, diverse audience we’re not going to reach.”
Atkinson said that the third issue was financial, as HighTide would not only lose more than £10,000, which it had already put into the event, but it would also miss out on fundraising income that would have been attached to the festival.
“What the council could do to help the situation is to continue a conversation with us about repaying us for what we’ve invested so far,” Atkinson added.
The artistic director said that HighTide would pay the artists who have already been contracted.
The council did not give a reason for withdrawing support. However, Atkinson said it was due to the borough already having enough cultural offerings.
Paul Douglas, the council’s cabinet member for culture, said: “Waltham Forest Council has been one of a number of funders of HighTide’s Walthamstow Festival for the past two years.
“Through London Borough of Culture 2019 we are delivering a diverse creative programme across the communities of Waltham Forest.”
He added: “As a council, we remain committed to investing in culture and have supported more locally based organisations and projects in 2019 than ever before.”
Sophie Ellerby’s Lit had been due to headline the HighTide Festival Walthamstow. The play will still run at HighTide’s Aldeburgh festival, which will go ahead as planned.