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Calls for inquiry into Cambridge Live bail-out rejected

Council pays £750,000 to rescue cultural trust in charge of CFF, rejects councillors’ demands for inquiry

By Anna Grace on 31 Jan 2019

Cambridge Live

Cambridge Folk Festival

image © Ben Willmott

An inquiry into crisis-hit Cambridge Live, the trust which runs the Cambridge Folk Festival (CFF) and Cambridge Corn Exchange, will not go ahead. Concerns arose following a £750,000 bail-out from the council.

Last month, Cambridge City Council brought Cambridge Live back in-house, after the trust encountered persistent financial difficulties.

The Council granted a £500,000 support package to the trust in June last year, later followed by an additional £250,000.

The Liberal Democrats tabled an amendment calling for a full inquiry into the reasons for the trust’s failings:

“Recognising the substantial potential public cost of this rescue and the need to decide whether Cambridge Live should in future continue in-house or be re-launched as an independent organisation, it is important to properly understand what went wrong in Cambridge Live and in the council’s relationship with it, both as its founding sponsor and major partner and customer.”

“It is important to properly understand what went wrong in Cambridge Live and in the council’s relationship with it”

“We therefore request officers to recommend terms of reference for a cross party members’ inquiry addressing these issues.”

However, the amendment was rejected by the council. Chief executive of Cambridge City Council, Antoinette Jackson, responded saying: “Our priority at the moment is to stabilise the organisation. We do not have the officer capacity at the moment to support an inquiry.”

This is not the first time such a bail-out has happened. Cambridge council awarded the 2007 and 2008 CFF ticketing contracts to online ticketing platform Secureticket Ltd. The company later went into administration, leaving the council to cover £618,000 in ticket sales.

Launched in 2015, Cambridge Live puts on events including the long-running CFF (10,000-cap.). Speaking to IQ last year, CFF boss Neil Jones spoke of the need to widen the festival’s appeal and the pressure of competing with live music behemoths such as Live Nation and AEG, with the exclusion zones such companies enforce.

Cambridge Live also runs concert and event venue the Cambridge Corn Exchange (1,700-cap.) and family-friendly community event the Big Weekend (15,000-cap.). The council will now be responsible for all services formerly provided by Cambridge Live. All events and concerts will continue as planned.


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