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Industry partners pay tribute to Charlie Watts

Artists and live music professionals have described the late Rolling Stone Charlie Watts, who died yesterday at the age of 80, as a true gentleman and one of the greatest drummers in rock’n’ history.

Watts, born Charles Robert in London on 2 June 1941, was for 58 years the modest, unassuming heartbeat of the Rolling Stones, bringing a unique jazz-influenced backbeat (he was “a jazz drummer really, and that’s why the Stones swung like the [Count] Basie band!” said the Who’s Pete Townshend) to one of the biggest rock bands in the world.

While known for his love-hate attitude to touring, Watts remained at the centre of the Stones, one of the world’s biggest live draws, for five decades and across multiple line-up changes, though he was set to miss the band’s upcoming US tour after undergoing emergency heart surgery. The Stones’ last concert tour, the ongoing No Filter run, was one of the biggest tours of 2017 and 2018 – more than 50 years after the band’s formation in 1963 – and the group formerly held the record, with 2005–07’s A Bigger Bang (US$558m), for the highest-grossing tour of all time.

In a statement released by Watts’s publicist, Bernard Doherty, the surviving Rolling Stones say: “It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts. He passed away peacefully in a London hospital […] surrounded by his family.

“He was a real gentleman who will be missed in the rock’n’roll world”

“Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also, as a member of the Rolling Stones, one of the greatest drummers of his generation. “We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time.”

Folkert Koopmans, whose FKP Scorpio promoted the Stones’ most recent shows in Germany, tells IQ he is “very sad” to learn of Watts’s passing. “We promoted the last couple of tours of the Rolling Stones,” he recalls, “and during the rehearsals in Hamburg, where they played the Stadtpark in front of more than 82,000 people, I had the honour to meet him. We we were joking about the bad weather both in Hamburg – we had constant rain! – and in the UK. He was a real gentleman who will be missed in the rock’n’roll world.”

Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino also sent his condolences, describing Watts as leaving “a legacy in rock’n’roll like very few do”.

Solo Agency’s John Giddings, who represented the Rolling Stones for a number of years, also remembers Watts as “a great guy” and “a true gentleman”. “It was a pleasure to work with him,” he says.

Known for his dry sense of humour, the drummer was also “always great for a one-liner,” Giddings adds. “When I was first introduced to him as his new agent, he looked me up and down and said, ‘I didn’t know I ’ad one!’”.

“When I was first introduced to him as his new agent, he looked me up and down and said, ‘I didn’t know I ’ad one!’”

Lucian Grainge, the CEO of the Rolling Stones’ label, Universal Music Group (UMG), sends his condolences to Watts’ surviving bandmates, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, and the band’s manager, Joyce Smyth.

“All of us at UMG are shocked and saddened at the loss of Charlie Watts,” he says in a statement. “Charlie was a naturally instinctive drummer for all generations and he will be greatly missed. His incomparable contributions to the genesis of popular music culture will continue to inspire and influence musicians and fans for years to come.”

In addition to Townshend, artists and contemporaries who have paid tribute to the drummer include the Beatles’ Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, Elton John and Dave Davies of the Kinks.

In an emotional video message, McCartney, who had known Watts since the early ’60s, described the drummer as a “beautiful man”. “”Love you, Charlie. I always loved you,” he added.

 


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Former Agents’ Association president Jenny Dunster passes

Jenny Dunster, the veteran booking agent who twice served as president of the UK’s Entertainment Agents’ Association, has passed away following a battle with cancer. She was 71.

Born in Sheffield in December 1949, Dunster began her career as a dancer. After moving to London, she worked in theatre, television, film and corporate events, appearing at a number of the West End’s most prestigious venues, including the world-famous Talk of the Town (later the Hippodrome).

After retiring from dancing, she moved to entertainment agency work, first with Jill Shirley at Razzamatazz, where she represented Bucks Fizz when they won the Eurovision Song Contest. This was followed by a period working alongside Bunny Lewis at LJD Presentations, and then at Leisure Services Agency with Kenneth Earle, after which she launched her own agency, Whatever Artists Management, in partnership with husband Ray Millar.

Whatever Artists’ corporate clients included Virgin Atlantic and Coca-Cola, an event for the latter of which resulted in Dunster receiving the best entertainment award at the Special Event show 2011 in the US.

Her passion for dance and the arts continued throughout her life, and she was the booking agent for corporate events for several Strictly Come Dancing professionals, including Anton du Beke and Erin Boag.

Dunster joined the council of the Entertainment Agents’ Association 31 years ago, attaining the status of executive vice-president five years later, and in 2003 she became the body’s first female president (2003–05). A second presidential term at the association, then known simply as the Agents’ Association, followed in 2013–15.

“She was a powerhouse of integrity, intelligence and fun”

In a statement, the association describes Dunster as a “guiding light encouraging other women to join council. She was a staunch believer in the Entertainment Agents’ Association, rarely missing a monthly meeting, even after her cancer diagnosis. She was forthright and straight talking and was keen to ensure that the association stayed relevant through the many changes in the entertainment industry, ensuring integrity and enhancing its reputation.”

In addition to her work with the Agents’ Association, she also served on the Variety and Light Entertainment Council (VLEC) for over 20 years, alongside Equity and the Musicians’ Union. Christine Payne, former general secretary of Equity, comments: “She was a powerhouse of integrity, intelligence and fun.”

Jeremy Lee, of speaker agency JLA, sums up Dunster: “A great showbiz personality with a smile full of mischief.”

“Jenny was a great agent, considerate to artists and hirers alike,” says Bob James, president of the Entertainment Agents’ Association. “She had a great talent in finding unknown artists and bringing the best out of them by the time she brought them to the attention of the public.

“Artistic, considerate, caring and generous to a fault – one of the old school, with new ideas.”

 


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“An extraordinary legacy”: Michael Gudinski passes aged 68

Frontier Touring founder Michael Gudinski, for five decades one of the best-known and most-loved figures in the concert business down under, has passed away. He was 68.

The sudden passing of Gudinski – who died in his sleep at his home in Melbourne last night (1 March) – sent a shockwave through the industry in Australia and beyond, with colleagues, artists, business rivals and parliamentarians sending their condolences and appreciation for a man Jimmy Barnes describes as “the heart of Australian music”.

Born Vale Michael Solomon Gudinski to Russian-Jewish parents in 1952, Gudinski founded record label and music publisher Mushroom Group at the age of 20 in 1972. Mushroom went on to become Australia’s largest homegrown entertainment company, adding booking agency, merchandise, film/TV production and concert promotion services.

Frontier Touring, founded in 1979, remains Australia’s largest tour promoter, having worked with artists including Ed Sheeran, Kylie Minogue, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Paul McCartney and Foo Fighters. It merged with AEG Presents in 2019.

In addition to touring some of the world’s leading artists and releasing, via the Mushroom Group labels, some of Australia’s favourite albums, Gudinski – a long-time ILMC member and frequent contributor to IQ – recently won praise for his assistance to the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Mushroom Group says, “with the music industry severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael conceptualised and developed Music from the Home Front, The Sound and the State of Music, platforms designed to showcase and support contemporary Australian music in an incredibly difficult time. It speaks to the man he was that of his countless illustrious career achievements these projects, that supported the industry he loved, were ones he was particularly proud of.

“I’ve toured the world for the last 50 years and never met a better promoter”

Frontier is also part of the pan-industry Live Entertainment Industry Forum, which has worked with government to get Australia back to live music safely.

Frontier Touring co-founder Michael Chugg, whose on-and-off business relationship with Gudinski culminated in his rejoining Mushroom Group in 2019, describes the passing of his friend as “shattering”.

“I spoke to him at 9 o’clock last night – we were giving each other a hard time over making sure the [Chugg music artist] Sheppard album got to number one this week,” he tells Sydney radio station 2GB. “It’s just so shocking; I got the call early this morning. […] I first met him when he was a 16-year-old sitting at a desk at an agency in Melbourne, and we were friends, buddies and opponents ever since.

“It’s just one of the worst days of my life.”

Barnes, who performed at Music from the Home Front, is among the artists to pay tribute to Gudinski’s achievements. “He was there for everyone that needed him,” he says. “The music business turned, grew and moved forward in Australia because of Michael. He was a force of nature, a giant of a man. His boundless enthusiasm breathed life into our music scene.”

“My friend Michael Gudinski was first, last and always a music man,” wrote another, Bruce Springsteen, on social media. “I’ve toured the world for the last 50 years and never met a better promoter.

“The music business turned, grew and moved forward in Australia because of Michael”

“Michael always spoke with a deep rumbling voice, and the words would spill out so fast that half the time I needed an interpreter. But I could hear him clear as a bell when he would say, ‘Bruce, I’ve got you covered’. And he always did. He was loud, always in motion, intentionally (and unintentionally) hilarious and deeply soulful.

“He will be remembered by artists, including this one, from all over the world every time they step foot on Australian soil. My deepest condolences to his wife and partner Sue, and to the whole Gudinski family, of which he was so proud.”

Gudinski, added Minogue, was “one of a kind and forever family to me. My heart is broken and I can’t believe he’s gone. Irreplaceable and unforgettable, I’ll always love you, ‘the Big G’.”

Rival promoters also sent their condolences: TEG extended its “deepest sympathies to the Gudinski family at this very difficult time, as well as to everyone at Mushroom and Frontier Touring”. “Michael was a larger-than-life character whose legacy in Australian music is undeniable,” the Sydney-based company adds.

Live Nation Australia said Gudinski leaves an “extraordinary legacy” in live music:

“When he started in show business in his teens, Australian music was a cottage industry. He was instrumental in turning it into a powerhouse”

“I’m not sure we ever agreed on anything, except maybe Ed Sheeran,” tweeted actor and musician Russell Crowe. “It still didn’t stop us from being mates for 30 years. I’m going to miss him deeply.”

Gudinski is survived by his wife Sue, his son Matt and Matt’s partner Cara, and his daughter Kate, her husband Andrew and their children, Nina-Rose and Lulu, as well as the extended “Mushroom family”.

“You simply cannot tell the story of Australian music without Michael Gudinski squarely in the centre of it,” says Tony Burke MP, Australia’s shadow minister for the arts. “For nearly 50 years, he was a passionate and relentless advocate for the local music industry and the artists that make it great.

“When he started in show business in his teens, Australian music was a cottage industry. He was instrumental in turning it into a powerhouse, earning him the title ‘the father of the Australian music industry’.

“From Mushroom Records to Frontier Touring, he was a brilliant, pioneering businessman – but he never lost his passion for the music itself.”

 


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Austrian promoter Erich Zawinul passes aged 55

Erich Zawinul, a concert promoter, booker and tour manager who was a fixture of the Austrian live music scene for three decades, has died after contracting Covid-19. He was 55.

The son of jazz legend Joe Zawinul (Weather Report), Zawinul began his career as a tour manager for Jimmy Cliff with George Leitner Productions (GLP) in Vienna. In 1990, with GLP colleague Richard Hoermann, he co-founded promoter Artist Marketing, and served as a partner in the firm until 2002.

Encouraged by the success of Artist Marketing (AM)’s first shows (Bonnie Tyler and the Chippendales), the pair left GLP to focus on AM full time. AM went on to promote Austrian shows by the likes of Kiss, Barry Manilow, Carlos Santana, Bryan Adams, Deep Purple, ZZ Top and Aerosmith.

In 2008, Artist Marketing became part of Barracuda Group (now part of CTS Eventim), where Zawinul worked as a booker until 2015.

“He loved music and he lived for the music biz with all his heart”

After leaving Barracuda, he became a brand manager for Austrian tequila company Padre Azul, although he continued to organise shows occasionally on the request of “close artist friends”, according to Hoermann.

An ILMC member, Zawinul also continued to work pro bono for Vienna’s Life Ball, the charity concert in aid of people living with HIV or Aids, booking artists and DJing.

“He loved music and he lived for the music biz with all his heart,” says Hoermann. “I personally, but also many friends all over the world, will certainly miss him.”

 


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Coronavirus claims South African promoters

Two popular South African concert promoters have died of Covid-19.

Thirty-five-year-old Pheko Kgengoe and Shonisani Lethole, 33, both passed away on 30 June after being admitted to hospitals in Johannesburg after contracting the coronavirus.



Lethole was known locally for his workshops connecting African artists with international opportunities. Siyabonga Mthembu, co-founder of Afro-jazz group the Brother Moves On, tells Music in Africa Lethole made an “immense” contribution to the South African music scene.

He comments: “Shoni introduced us to our first real manager, Adi Frost. His endeavoured to connect African artists. […] He introduced the new artists to the old-school players. Shoni respected and loved us all. He showed the kind of love for music that made him a big part of the Johannesburg live music scene.”

“I hear so many people saying the dearest things about Shoni now – his close friends in Johannesburg and his close-at-heart, far-away friends in Oslo, Copenhagen, London and Los Angeles,” says Norwegian promoter and distributor Trond Torner, who worked with Lethole.

“Shoni respected and loved us all”

“And I feel I’m not alone when experiencing a deep vacuum from where Shoni would be. He felt like a brother to us all. Shoni’s name will be forever.”

Kgengoe’s career included spells at Universal Music and Sony Music, and he later established his own PR company, 4 the Love.

“He was very passionate and contributed a lot to the music industry. His death is a loss to the whole industry,” says local music PR specialist Thabisa Mogwathle. “It has not fully sunk in that he is gone. He was a friend, a brother and a business partner as we worked on various projects together.”

Authorities are investigating the circumstances of Lethole’s death at Tembisa Hospital, after he tweeted he had not eaten for 48 hours in the days leading up to his passing.

There has been a surge in coronavirus cases in South Africa in recent weeks, with localised outbreaks reported in Johannesburg and Pretoria as Africa’s most developed country goes back to work.

 


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Dubai live pioneer Richard Coram passes

Richard Coram, one of the Middle East’s live music pioneers and a household name in the UAE, has passed away from Covid-19.

Known locally as the ‘voice of Dubai’, Coram, who arrived in the emirate in 1978, was a TV and radio fixture for much of the 1980s, hosting his own show on Dubai FM 92 and working as a newsreader on Channel 33 Dubai.

Coram (pictured) is best known to the live music community as founder of events firm The Talent Brokers, which he established in 1979. Later joined by Coram’s wife, Padma, the company staged shows by the likes of Lionel Richie, Bryan Adams, Luciano Pavarotti and Sirs Elton John and Rod Stewart, at a time when large-scale live events in Dubai were thin on the ground.

The Talent Brokers is remembered fondly in the Middle East for its high-quality live events, in contrast to many of the “cowboys” that followed, media veteran Keith Fernandez tells Gulf News. “I have countless memories of the shows they mounted. […] These were almost always superbly organised shows, with excellent security, F&B and logistics.”

“A giant has left us”

“You only needed to see their name attached to an event to know it would be a quality show,” adds Dubai resident Anthony Permal. “This was Richard’s legacy. [There is] no part of [the live] events [industry] that hasn’t been touched by Richard.”

In a tweet, Dubai-based marketing specialist Anthony Permal pays tribute to Coram as a “giant” of the live entertainment industry. “Richard Coram is the OG events guru of Dubai,” he says. “He started the true wave and paved the way for so many of us.

“A giant has left us.”

The Corams, along with their son, Aryan, later moved to the UK, where Richard spent his final years. Recent projects in the UK included AR Rahman at the O2 Arena, in August 2015, and Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball 2019, with Stormzy and Rita Ora, last December.

 


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Chris Meredith memorial concert announced

Shame, Sleeper, Ider and Whenyoung will perform an intimate charity show in memory of late ATC Live agent Chris Meredith, who lost his battle with depression in September.

The concert will be held at O2 Academy Islington in London on Sunday 1 December, with a share of the proceeds going to two mental-health charities, Calm (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) and Mind.

Simon Gunning, Calm’s CEO, says: “As an organisation that has always worked closely with the music community, we’re proud to partner with ATC Live to honour the memory of Chris Meredith.

“It’s great to have the support of such brilliant artists in raising awareness of the services that are available to anyone who may be struggling, and donations contribute towards the operation of Calm’s free and anonymous helpline and webchat, which are open every day, 5pm to midnight.”

The gig includes ATC act Shame; Britpop icons Sleeper, who Meredith had represented since their reformation; Ider, who performed at Meredith’s festival Neverworld; and Whenyoung, with whom Meredith had a long association from before their current inception.

“He was an absolute gem, and a champion of female artists, and we’ll miss him hugely”

The 800-capacity Islington Academy is a marked underplay for Shame and Sleeper, both of which having recently played at London’s 2,300-cap. O2 Forum Kentish Town.

“Chris Meredith was a big part of the Sleeper story, bringing us back to the live circuit after twenty years away. He was an absolute gem, and a champion of female artists, and we’ll miss him hugely,” say Sleeper in a statement.

“We’re taking part in this gig for Mind and Calm because they do such amazing work breaking down the stigma of mental-health issues and helping people in crisis. Their work is vitally important. Perhaps now, more than ever.”

Advance tickets are priced at £20 and will be on sale from 10am on Tuesday 19 November at Ticketmaster.co.uk. £6 from every ticket sold will be donated to each charity, Calm and Mind.

 


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Legendary jazz promoter Walter Homburger passes

Walter Homburger, the German-born promoter whose International Artists Concert Agency (IACA) brought jazz and classical music greats including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Luciano Pavarotti to Canada, has died aged 95.

Born in Karlsruhe in 1924, Homburger, a Jew, emigrated to Canada in 1940 and became a citizen (British subject) two years later. After a spell working on a pig farm in Aurora, Ontario, Homburger made his first foray into concert promotion, which, according to FYIMusicNews’s Nick Krewen, was “a disaster”.

“He borrowed money to guarantee soprano Lotte Lehman a $3,750 haul for three German leider recitals at Toronto’s Eaton Auditorium in 1947, and lost $1k,” Krewen writes. “But his backers felt he had a future and covered his deficit. Their trust was rewarded when three months later Homburger recouped his losses with a sell-out by Russian pianist Vladimir Horowitz.”

In addition to working as a promoter, Homburger was a successful manager, guiding Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould to global success.

In 1957, Gould became the first Western artist to play the USSR after the second world war. Homburger told Gould biographer Colin Eatock: “I felt it would give Glenn some good publicity. […] But it was the McCarthy era, and I was very concerned about Glenn not being able to get into the United States after visiting Russia. So I had some correspondence with the Canadian government – with [future PM] Lester Pearson, who was at that time our external affairs minister.

“This is a huge loss for … all those fortunate enough to have worked with him”

“The government was behind the idea, and they helped me with contacts in Russia. I asked them to please let their colleagues in the USA know that they are in favour of Glenn going to Russia so that he wouldn’t be banned from the United States.”

Gould performed in Moscow and St Petersburg (then Leningrad), and also gave lectures during the tour, which made him a household name in Russia.

As Homburger’s relationship with Gould ended, in 1962 he became managing director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a position he would keep until his retirement in 1987. When he retired, the orchestra held a benefit concert, the Great Gathering, which made more than C$2.3m for the orchestra’s charitable foundation.

For his work with the Toronto Symphony, Homburger was made a member of the order of Canada. He was also awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002.

“Walter represented a rare mix in one man: He was a brilliant impresario, a strategic leader and a kind inspiration to all who knew him,” says Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) CEO Matthew Loden. “This is a huge loss for the TSO family and for all those fortunate enough to have worked with him, but we are comforted in knowing Walter’s legacy survives in our collective memories and in the music we make every day.”

Homburger is survived by Emmy, his wife of 58 years, his son Michael, daughter Lisa and four grandchildren.

 


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Manchester Arena’s Matt Ward passes

Matt Ward, the well-liked and widely respected head of event marketing and PR for Manchester Arena, has passed away after losing a two-year battle with cancer. He was 45.

Ward, who died on 2 May 2019, joined the arena, then called Manchester Evening News (MEN) Arena, in 2006, and had been in his current role since 2016. He is survived by his wife, and two young children.

In a letter to staff announcing Ward’s passing, arena GM James Allen paid tribute to his sense of humour and creativity, as well as his compassion and sensitivity, especially in “challenging times”, alluding to 2017’s terrorist attack.

“It is with great sadness that I inform you that our colleague and friend Matt Ward has died from cancer,” he wrote. “Our sincere condolences go to his wife, young children and the rest of his wonderful family. He will be greatly missed by all at Manchester Arena and across the wider SMG team.

“Matt will be greatly missed by all at Manchester Arena and across the wider SMG team”

“Matt joined the arena in 2006 [after] demonstrating exceptional marketing and communications skills honed during his tenure at Alton Towers and the Ambassador Theatre Group. He was promoted to head of event marketing and public relations in 2016, and was a hugely integral part of the successful senior management team, loved by all his colleagues and the larger community he came into contact with.”

Allen tells IQ he has received “some wonderful tributes on behalf of his family from right across our industry”, which “only confirmed” how highly thought of Ward was.

“Matt was a fantastic communicator who combined a unique sense of humour with an impressive creative streak that ensured his marketing and communication campaigns stood out from the rest,” continues Allen.

“He worked with skill, sensitivity and compassion, so that during our more challenging times, all output was managed for the benefit of not only the arena, but also for the SMG Europe group.”

 


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VMS Live’s Steve Forster passes

Steve Forster, founder and managing director of VMS Live and a widely respected figure in the UK live music industry, has passed away.

After a stint as a musician, DJ and roadie in Newcastle, Forster’s live music business began in 1987 when he set up his own company, NPS, promoting shows, managing tours and organising club nights.

After a three-year stint as operations director at the old Wembley Stadium, Forster joined Academy Music Group (AMG) in 1999, when it ran two venues, staying with the company as main board director and shareholder until 2007, by which time that number had risen to 13. He then set up VMS Live, and for three years ran the live music division of MAMA (now part of Live Nation).

Since 2011, Forster had led VMS as a standalone business, opening and acquiring several new venues, including most recently Hull clubs the Welly and the Polar Bear.

“Everyone at VMS Live is deeply shocked and saddened at the recent passing of our managing director and founder Steve Forster,” says the company in a statement. “He was involved in a serious car accident on Saturday 30 March, heading south after having watched his beloved Leeds United win. Steve sustained a number of serious injuries, which were treated in Sheffield, after which he was transferred to Royal Surrey Hospital. Following complications, Steve passed away peacefully on Friday 19 April 2019.

“Whether you knew Steve from his early days in Newcastle or through the many venues and events he worked with, we are sure you will agree that he was a focussed and determined operator, a man who knew his own mind and, overall, a truly unique and talented individual.

“He was a truly great man”

“Steve was respected and influential throughout the industry and has passed on a great deal of knowledge and experience to those around him, and for this legacy we can all be eternally grateful.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family, friends and all those who were fortunate to have known him.”

Details of Forster’s funeral arrangements will follow shortly.

Forster’s passing is the second such tragedy in the past year for VMS, which lost its longtime operations consultant, Dan Pike, last September.

Among those to have sent condolences to VMS and Forster’s family include AMG, which offers its “heartfelt thoughts, love and strength” on behalf of his former company, and Showsec, which sends “condolences from all of us at Showsec to Steve’s family, friends and colleagues at this sad time”.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer, who Forster promoted at Hi-Voltage in 2010, expressed their “great regret” at his death, while the Welly pays tribute to Forster’s passion for “Hull and live music, and we hope to carry on his legacy using the wealth of knowledge and experience he has shared with us.”

A statement from Sheffield venue the Leadmill, meanwhile, says: Our sincerest condolences to every one of the VMS and Forster family from everyone here at the Leadmill.

“He was a truly great man.”

 


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