Rockin The Bowl, due to be held from 9-11 September 2022 at the Don Valley Bowl in Sheffield, has been cancelled. The news was broken yesterday evening in a video. “We’ve got some bad news, and we want to deliver it personally,” Zhany Hughes said. “As you can imagine, it’s a very emotional time for us.”
One of the most friendly community festivals on the circuit, Steve and Zhany explained that they had used “personal resources to bridge the gap” in the finances of past festivals.
“In 2021, after Covid, we came back and upped it,” Steve said. “We still knew we had the money to bridge the gap, and we did. So tens of thousands of pounds, many tens of thousands of pounds of our own personal money went into this festival and didn’t come back to us and probably never will. But we don’t regret a single minute of that.”
With the current financial and social climate in the UK, things have now come to a head, and the couple says that it is not possible to continue for the time being.
“Pretty much wholly connected with the situation this country and individuals find themselves in at the moment, financially,” Steve said. “People are scared. People are nervous. People are very apprehensive about their financial future for themselves, their families, and their mortgages. Festivals and gigs are one of the last things that many people have on their minds.
“Therefore, inevitably, ticket sales have dropped to such an extent that it was beyond what we anticipated by our future projections. The perfect storm of ticket sales dropping and the price of everything rising. All our contractors, the people who also need the money in their bank accounts, meaning they had to pass on these costs to us.”
The gap between income and costs was continually growing. “Just over a month away from Rockin The Bowl,” Steve says, “and the stark realization is that we can’t do this.”
Arts Council, local authority and all other avenues of grants and loans were applied for with no success. “We are a registered social enterprise,” Zhany says, “but the simple truth is that they don’t really care about the alternative scene. If any of you out there have managed to secure any funding from the Arts Council, well done. It’s like squeezing milk out of a stone. The last application, which we were relying on, came through a few days ago saying, no, you can’t have it.
“And that money would have been exactly enough to bridge the gap that Steve was talking about. So, unfortunately, that was our last chance. That’s gone now.”
MetalTalk finds this lack of support so frustrating, especially considering the six-figure sum granted to Pishter Ltd as one example of questionable Culture Recovery Fund grants.
“When we did our finances,” Steve says, “we realized that in the next few days, we would have to get near 600 new ticket sales. And realistically, we know…”
“We love you guys,” Zhany says, “but we don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Contracts mean that cancellation clauses kick in one month before the festival for suppliers, and rather than postpone, they are cancelling. “We’re hoping this is in good enough time for the majority of you to not suffer any financial losses from this cancellation,” Zhany says.
Refunds will follow, paid in batches over a period of time. “Every last person who bought a ticket will be refunded the ticket money, ” Steve says. “Also, we also have an obligation to refund our vendors who paid pitch fees. That will also be honoured.”
Steve says Stonedeaf Monsters Promotions Ltd, the company which runs the festival, will not file for bankruptcy. The hope to do something in the future, “if the climate’s rise to do something again.”
The emotions were high, and the tears held back as Zhany thanked the Rockin The Bowl team. “The team endlessly supported, endlessly helped,” Steve said. “Throughout that team, there must have been thousands, literally thousands of man hours spent.”
“So, thank you guys,” Zhany said. “Thanks to all of you who supported this and bought a ticket. Thanks to the volunteers who worked a lot harder than they should have done. I know a few of them will really miss the vibe.”
“We’re not here because we want everybody to see our faces,” Steve says. “We’re here because we care. It’s a very personal sort of festival. It always was a very personal festival, a very hands-on, us rooting around in the dirt with you guys. And when we made our announcements and smiled when people were patting us on the back… People are not going to be patting us on the back. We’re still here. We’re not going to hide behind some faceless message.”
For supporting Heavy Metal music, and especially giving opportunities to grassroots bands at a great festival in The Steel City of Sheffield, Steve and Zhany Hughes deserve a lot of respect.
Almost every cost for the festival has gone up drastically over the last three months. This has been unprecedented and something none of them could have anticipated half a year ago.
MetalTalk wishes them well, and we hope that people will give them time to sort the fallout from this devastating news.
“We’ve got to get our own heads straight,” Steve says, “and get our own heads around this before we can deal effectively and efficiently with the outfall of this.”