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Rain and Competition from Similar Events Were GuilFest’s Downfall

Published on: 27 Sep, 2012
Updated on: 30 Sep, 2012

GuilFest’s Tony Scott.

Music festival organiser TONY SCOTT talks to David Rose about the factors that have resulted in GuilFest having to go into receivership.

First, take the awful weather this July, and second, the fact that there were so many other events taking place this summer – that’s why the the firm behind GuilFest has gone into receivership.

At its head is Tony Scott, a Guildford man who has masterminded his annual music festival in Stoke Park for 21 years, apart from one year at Loseley Park. It all began for music fan Tony in 1991 when he launched the one-day and relatively small Guildford Folk and Blues Festival.

When Tony put on that first festival in Guildford there were only a handful of popular or roots music festivals taking place each year up and down the UK. That has now changed considerably (and more of that later).

Glastonbury had long been established, but it didn’t always happen each year. WOMAD was going and Reading had been a feature in the music calendar for some time. There were a few folk festivals, such as the one at Cambridge, and there was also the band Fairport Convention’s annual get together at Cropredy in Oxfordshire.

Things had come on only a little from the one offs back in the carefree days of the late 1960s and 70s. These include the two festivals on the Isle of Wight featuring such greats as Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, respectively.

Tony said: “When we started out festivals were few and far between. There were none in Scotland or Ireland for example. So people were happy to travel around to find a festival. In fact, we used to get loads of fans over from the Isle of Wight.”

Singer Olly Murs at GuilFest 2012.

Now, many have got on to the festival organising bandwagon. It seems that just about anywhere you might care to go to in the UK between the months of May and September there will be a music festival of some sort taking place.

“The whole festival culture took off in the Nineties,” Tony said. “It acclerrated in the Naughties and festivals got bigger and better until every area had their own festival, so people didn’t need to travel so far.”

Therefore in recent times, GuilFest’s core audience has been local people. No problem attracting them if the weather is fine. But if the weather is wet, coupled with more and more outdoor events taking place nearby, it’s been tough for GuilFest to pull in the punters.

Tony explained: “The weather was poor this July, but last year, 2011, wasn’t that good either. In effect we had five festival days in a row in which our numbers were down. That’s a lot in festival terms. We rely on our walk-up audience.

“Then this year we were up against a lot of other things going on. People had to decide what they would rather spend their money on. It can be a big outlay for a family with several children.”

Tony has always been proud that GuilFest is a family orientated festival and that there is a wide range of artists appearing to hopefully appeal to all the different age groups who attend.

He said: “The Olympics was a factor. It probably meant that local people who got tickets to the games may have decided not to go to GuilFest.

“That weekend we were also competing against the Farnborough Air Show. I know it’s not music, but if you are a parent and you want to take the family somewhere, the air show may have been a better bet than listening to music in the rain.

“Also, there was Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon playing concerts in Hyde Park and not long after GuilFest Tom Jones was performing at Sandown Park Racecourse [Esher] – all competition for potential ticket sales. And all of this on the back of a recession.

The muddy conditions at a wet GuilFest 2012.

“We have learned a lot over the years and our standards have kept on improving – all this against pop stars and their moods, being in the outdoors and exposed to the weather, and economic effects.”

Tony Scott has put 21 music festivals, all but one in Stoke Park, Guildford.

Tony also had a word to say about artists and the fees they demand. “There has not been any really good new bands coming along in the past couple of years to challenge the established acts. Where’s the new Muse or Green Day? So, although there are more festivals, the older well established acts choose where they want to play and the demand ever higher fees.”

“We are really sad, and it’s hard to say what’s happening at the moment as the company [Scotty Events] is in receivership. I am out of a job and others will be too.”

Tony Scott seems to be bedevilled by the weather and nature in general. The foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 brought to a near standstill things going on in the countryside at that time. He was, as now, in the marquee hire business and the firm he ran then, Tony Scott Marquees, was forced to close due to a lack of tent and marquee bookings.

However, he reformed it as Abinger Marquees and continues with that business today. But the site it occupies at Ladymead, near the fire station, is earmarked for development, so he will soon have to start searching for new premises.

It’s no easy task running a music festival, although Tony has had 21 years experience, he said: “We have really enjoyed putting on GuilFest. Many people have put in a lot of effort – from our sound and stage crews, security and us working well with Guildford Borough Council.”


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Responses to Rain and Competition from Similar Events Were GuilFest’s Downfall

  1. Trevor Wicks

    September 30, 2012 at 9:01 am

    I will never forget Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys playing in Stoke Park. His voice may a gone but what fantastic memories it bought back. I would like to thank Tony and his team for bringing so many fantastic performers to Guildford.