Olympics

Future looks bleak for the Hop Farm Music Festival as administrators called in

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Tuesday, September 25 2012

As Vince Power calls in the administrators for his company Music Festivals PLC, it almost certainly spells the end for the Hop Farm Music Festival.

Another outing at the venue near Paddock Wood next year looks near on impossible after the fiery Irish promoter suspended shares on his company on Friday.

Its last share price left the company worth a little over 3% of its value when it debuted on the stock market last June. It had gone from a valuation of £10 million to just £310,000.

It seems the weather, the Olympics and a crowded market all conspired against the event, which was headlined by Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel and Suede earlier this year.

Power, pictured above, is also less likely to save the Hop Farm, which ran for five years, now that he stands to lose a lot from the company's failure, owning 23% of the company and about 40% including the stakes of his family.

He has been bitten like this before, losing nearly £8 million in 2010, when his music promotions business, Power Music Group, went under. He is unlikely to allow lightening to strike thrice.

It is a bitter blow for the man described as the father of the commercial British festival, whose Mean Fiddler company turned Reading and Glastonbury into the mega bucks money machines they are today.

He sold that company for £38 million in 2005 but he must now be on the verge of putting his festival management days behind him after a superb, but ultimately costly, swansong with the Hop Farm Music Festival and Valencia-based Benicassim.

The Hop Farm put on the likes of Neil Young, Paul Weller, Florence + The Machine, Mumford and Sons, Morrissey and Prince, pictured. It attracted criticism from some corners for its crowd being on the reserved side at times but no one can deny that every improving line up put it among the country's top music events.

Arguably this year's line up was its least impressive so far, bringing Bob Dylan back to headline two years after his first appearance in the county.

It suggests Mr Power was hoping to weather a tough year with a safe line up and then pull out all the stops once again for 2013.

The freezing of Music Festival PLC's shares also sheds some light on the bizarre move to switch the location of Leonard Cohen's two UK gigs from the Hop Farm to Wembley Arena.

AEG Live came in to jointly promote the event at the eleventh hour and a statement at the time said the move was a precautionary measure against the "unseasonal cold and wet weather this summer."

Now speculation must focus on how much the move was about AEG minimising outlay as its fellow promoter stared at the writing on the wall, rather than maximising potential revenues for the struggling Music Festivals PLC, in case of rain or otherwise.

Ultimately, it is a sorry tale typical of these tough economic times.

Mr Power was lured back into the festival market after interest in live music peaked about five years ago and must now pay the price for operating in an unstable, saturated market.

With the Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee, mushrooming petrol prices and pay freezes, many festival goers could not afford a £100 weekend ticket and opted to take a year off from muddy fields and overpriced beer.

Like the banking sector before it, it seems the festival market assumed the good times would never end.

Unless an unlikely benefactor appears from somewhere, it seems the Hop Farm Music Festival will become another brilliant but brief part of musical history.

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Categories: Business | Celebrities | Economy | Entertainment | music | Olympics | Showbiz

Paralympians redefine the word 'ability'

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Tuesday, September 4 2012

I am off to watch athletics at the Olympic Stadium on Friday and I couldn’t be more excited.

I didn’t manage to get tickets for the Olympics despite numerous attempts and countless minutes spent watching the little clock go round on the website.

We ended up going to watch the men’s walking race in The Mall, which was fantastic, but I still wanted to see more.

To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about Paralympic tickets until the day after the Olympic opening ceremony.

Determined to get into the stadium somehow, we checked out the Paralympic site.

I’m so glad we did, not just because we’ll be visiting the Olympic Park, but because I’ve finally got the Paralympic buzz.

To have the chance to watch some of the world’s greatest athletes compete in London 2012 will never happen again and Olympic or Paralympic makes no difference to me.

I’ve never really paid much attention to the Paralympics before but this time I’ve tuned into as much as I can. I’ve watched some judo, wheelchair basketball, numerous track events, and all have been gripping stuff.

Actor and director Simon Pegg tweeted earlier this week: “Watching the Paralympics, you realise what an utterly stupid term “disabled” is.” – And he’s right.

Look up the word “disabled” and it means someone who has an impairment or a limitation.

An impairment? Maybe. A limitation? It’s hard to believe that when you watch these men and women compete. They have taken what life has dealt them and decided it will spur them on.

I read an interview with one Paralympian who said his disability was the best thing that had ever happened to him. Without it, he would be living a perfectly ordinary life in a perfectly ordinary job. Instead, he was now competing at the highest level and travelling the world.

By the end of these Paralympics, the words brave and disability will have taken on a whole new definition.

We’d be wrong if we weren’t moved by some of the stories, but when they’re crossing the finishing line, it will be their ability, not their disability, that will shine through.

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Categories: Olympics

We should have left Boris dangling from his wire

by The Codgers' Club Friday, August 24 2012

by Peter Cook

The enduring image I shall retain from the Olympics is that of the buffoon Boris Johnson dangling from a rope attached to a zip wire.

Why on earth did anyone take the trouble to get him down?

If I was an entrepreneur, I would have dangling Boris toys made for traders to sell in the street markets of Old London Town. “Roll up, roll up. Get yer mayor on a string.”

They could be constructed like those toy clowns where you pull a string and both arms and legs fly out and up as if they were doing star jumps. Consideration would have to be given as to where the string should be attached.

I was dismayed to hear that Boris got a cheer from the crowd during that interminable closing ceremony. I do hope the cheers were ironic.

Now he wants the success of Team GB to be somehow harnessed to the economy, to get Britain going again. It isn’t going to happen.

The Olympics was a great party. There were lots of games and some people won prizes. But have you ever been to a party that ended up with people saying: “Right we’ve had a smashing time, now let’s get back to work and get that old economy moving?”

Of course not. And how is Boris going to get the country going again?

By supporting deeply discredited City institutions that in large part are responsible for wrecking the economy in the first place.

And by building a floating airport in the Thames Estuary that would cost unimaginable sums of money, and that nobody really wants.

Genius!

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Categories: Moans and groans | Olympics

Where's the Olympics inspiration?

by The Codgers' Club Friday, August 17 2012

by Alan Watkins

There was no way I would waste my time watching the Olympics. Over-priced, with loud-mouthed sports personalities - watch that debt-laden programme? Never!

I did report on the torch relay, but that was by instruction, rather than by choice.

Hand-ball? - much prefer rugby.

BMX racing? - a game for primary school children seeking a thrill.

Women’s boxing? - bound to be handbagging and hair-pulling.

Equestrians? - over-rich titled twits (and that’s just their horses).

Football? - show ‘em the penalty spot and it’s game over.

What else is there to watch? - Brits getting beat, that’s what. Except....

Despite all my doubts before the first chimney appeared on the athletics stadium floor, somehow I became embroiled in the whole thing.

I thrilled as the imperious Usain Bolt broke all the perceived rules for focused champions, and still won golds.

I winced as women belted each other and still grinned.

I roared as the BMX riders smashed into (and through) each other, wondered how Jessica Ennis could still smile so softly as she broke records - and her opponents - and felt for the marksmen as they tried to win more than a single medal.

Fortunately, my scepticism about the whole event was secured by the football team. I told you: point at the penalty spot and it’s game over for the Brits.

Now it’s Games Over. We all await the Paralympics, and the long-term legacy of inspiring a generation.

Well, I wonder whether the Games inspired the generation loitering around the High Streets in Chatham and Gillingham?

I talked to a number of teenagers in Dartford a couple of weeks ago.

The town had hosted the British judo team, and the beaming 100 metres runner, Adam Gemili, is a local schoolboy. This, surely, was added inspiration.

Unfortunately, such aspirations were swiftly dented. It wasn’t a scientific exploration of youth minds - more a straw poll.

Not one of them was inspired by the Games. Some were quite articulate, and said the £11 billion reportedly spent on the Games should have been used for getting younger people ready for a work environment. Another said the health service should get the money.

One young lady named Natasha said: “Me watch the Olympics? No. It’s boring.”

I have to admit, I would never have described the Olympics as boring, but in at least one town Seb Coe and his crowd of motivators may not have inspired the generation they promised to.

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Categories: Moans and groans | Olympics

Cheers and tears – it’s been amazing

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Wednesday, August 15 2012

So that’s it. The greatest show on earth is over - for London, at least.

What are we going to do now? No more wasting time on computers for minutes on end, watching a little clock go round and knowing the tickets for tomorrow’s events will have gone. Again.

No more staying up until stupid o’clock to find out which obscure country won a medal in a sport you knew nothing about a fortnight ago.

No more wondering why the sofa in the BBC studio is so high, hardly anybody could touch the floor and needed a wooden box to get up onto it.

How terribly sad. I’m feeling blue already.

I did manage to watch an Olympic event – the men’s walking race. Well, I say watch; I was in a crowd five deep and managed to see the heads of a couple of dozen athletes bob up and down as they rushed past.

I only knew they were on their way because people much nearer the front started cheering.

But I loved every second of it. I loved the buzz in London and we also spent Super Saturday in Hyde Park, watching the action on the live screens and cheering Bradley Wiggins when he appeared on stage. What an atmosphere that was.

But let’s not forget the Paralympics. I certainly won’t be, because I’m off to the Olympic Stadium in a couple of weeks to watch an evening of sprinting.

I can’t wait. I’ve enjoyed learning a bit more about things such as handball, judo and water polo. Now I’m looking forward to getting to know a whole new group of athletes.

My husband is both relishing and dreading our trip in equal measure – relishing a night of athletics, dreading the fact that he knows I’m going to be in tears the moment they appear on to the track.

Inspiration always overwhelms me – I only have to hear Elbow’s Olympic anthem at the moment and I start welling up. I found myself crying at a set of traffic lights the other day when it came on the radio.

So I’m not taking my Union flags down from my house just yet – Team GB still has plenty more medals to aim for.

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Categories: Olympics

Want to know about legacy? Check out Kent's new youth theatre project.

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Thursday, August 9 2012

In my younger years, I was something of a thespian.

Every Saturday afternoon was spent at Gravesend’s Matinee Stage School, as I harboured dreams of being the next Jim Carrey. He was cool back in the 1990s.

Most of this was rehearsal but one year, when I was about 14, the school announced it was putting on a major production. New high-intensity Tuesday night drama classes were run.

Keen as I was, I went every week. It was announced the production would be Wind in the Willows and it would be staged at the Woodville Halls. To misquote the great Chris Kamara, I was fighting like a beaver to get a good part.

I got it. I was to be Badger and all seemed wonderful. I learned my lines and looked forward to my theatrical debut.

Then disaster struck when the school announced they were cancelling the show with a little over two months to go.

They said not enough people were putting the effort in. Apparently not enough of the leading cast members had learned their lines (I had learned them all, barring my final scene.)

I was devastated. Months of work hard had gone to waste. In the end, we performed one scene from the play as part of a wider Matinee Stage School gala at the Woodville Halls, but it was scant consolation. My big theatrical debut had been taken away from me and my faith in the school had been dashed to pieces.

I left shortly afterwards, disillusioned with it all. I never went back to acting, despite always being something of a performer at heart. The school eventually closed, a couple of years later, presumably damaged by having to cancel such a major show. Only in the last few months was the weather-beaten sign removed from the terraced house which was home to the school on Parrock Street.

It was this memory which made me hope, wholeheartedly, that as many young actors as possible take up their chance to be a part of the National Theatre’s youth project at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre next year.

It was announced this week the theatre has been chosen to work with up to 20 youth theatres to bring together a festival of young drama in May, 2013.

Youth theatres will be offered up to 10 plays to produce, all commissioned by the National Theatre. All the plays are by today’s top writers, including Lenny Henry, Howard Brenton and Jim Cartwright.

Called NT Connections 2013, a production of each play will then be chosen to be performed at the National Theatre, London, in June.

With the focus so much on sporting legacy right now with the Olympics, this is a chance for Kent’s young people to be a part of a different future generation to be part of the nation’s acting legacy. It is a chance to show off some real talent, at a venue which has become such a symbol of Kent’s theatrical capability.

The production I had hoped to be in was a private venture by a small theatre group which, sadly, went horribly wrong. This is a chance to be a part of something much bigger – and could lead on to something huge for some of Kent’s young acting prodigies.

  • NT Connections 2013 will take place at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, from Tuesday, May 7 to Thursday, May 9, 2013. For details on how to get involved, call 01227 787787. 

Tags:
Categories: Celebrities | Entertainment | Gravesend | Olympics | Showbiz

Olympics shows love for NHS runs deep

by The Codgers' Club Friday, August 3 2012

by Peter Cook

I turned on the telly last Friday night fully expecting to be bored stiff by all the Olympic ballyhoo.

Instead I was completely blown away by the opening ceremony. Weren’t we all? It was a truly magnificent spectacle.

Greater minds than mine, if any such there be, have analysed the show. But too much analysis destroys the magic. It’s best to be swept along on a tide of Danny Boyle wonder.

Reaction from overseas has been mostly positive, although parts of the extravaganza must have been baffling to alien minds.

For example, a Los Angeles Times correspondent could not understand the National Health Service sequence, claiming it was equivalent to eulogising some well-known American healthcare company.

This, more than anything else I have read, demonstrated the gulf between our attitude to healthcare and that of right wing Americans, or even right wing British.

OK, the NHS frequently lets us down. We can all quote stories of when it has not lived up to expectations.

Most of the time, however, it works well. And who has not been glad and grateful for its existence in times of emergency?

But it’s Bevin’s central principle of providing free healthcare for everyone that is so important. Just think how much worry that removes from those of us who would otherwise be plunged into poverty.

OK, you can buy health insurance. But if healthcare is paid for out of general taxation, it means the well-off pay that little bit more, helping out those on smaller incomes. You would need to be utterly selfish not to see that as a reasonable ideal.

Since 1947, we in this country have taken free-at-the-point-of-access healthcare pretty much for granted. We often forget that in many countries if you can’t pay you die.

The NHS has become a sort of quasi-religion in Britain. It goes to the very roots of our belief in fairness and equality.

What Danny Boyle achieved with his NHS sequence was to demonstrate just how deeply felt is our love and affection for the healthcare system in this country, despite its many imperfections.

Politicians who monkey about with it will do so at their peril.

What we need to do now is to build a social care system that works as well as the NHS.

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Categories: Moans and groans | Olympics

Ticket woes aren't limited to the Olympics

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Wednesday, August 1 2012

Tickets – they seem to cause more problems than they are worth sometimes.

London 2012 Games organisers have had to admit that 67,000 seats a day have been left empty at the Olympics – equivalent to one in 10 tickets sold.

Consequently, there was a rush by LOCOG to get tickets on sale on Monday, putting another 3,800 back on the market, with a promise more will become available day by day.

Disappointingly, after taking a quick look on the Games’ ticket website today, the process to buy more tickets seems as complicated as ever. Also, many have been angered there are no box office numbers to call and that tickets can only be bought online.

Yes, tickets can be a pain, as organisers at Lounge on the Farm have found this week.

The festival at Merton Farm, near Canterbury, announced on Tuesday, July 24 that a “very limited” number of early bird tickets would become available on Friday, July 27.

Yet, six days later, they are still sending out tweets saying the £79 passes are still on sale for LOTF 2013.

Granted, these are difficult times. Everyone wants to spend their money on those extra Olympic tickets going on sale this week. Plus, we are all generally a bit skint in these times of double-dip recession.

Yet this must be a bit of a blow for the festival, which must be hoping to get as much money in the bank as possible after a relatively poorly attended event this year.

Perhaps the memories of the rain and mud has put off a number of people off for now. It’s still a bit too raw in the memory.

But if Kent music-lovers want a great festival to keep afloat in these tough times, maybe snapping up those early bird tickets might be a good idea.

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Talking of tickets, I have some pretty amazing ones for a certain show tonight.

I am not allowed to talk about it really. In honesty, I am not allowed to be there either. But the excitement is too much to not even drop a little hint.

Once a certain closing event of a certain rather big occasion has occurred, I’ll be able to write all about it.

But for now, just know that I’m really looking forward to it, and I’ll be bursting at the seams for a couple of weeks, waiting to get behind a keyboard and blurt everything out.

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A couple of weeks back, we ran a nice little piece on page three of What’s On, talking about the Red Bull Pro Nationals motorcross up at Canada Heights, near Swanley.

Thanks to our monsoon like summer, the final day had to be cancelled, as the track had become a quagmire.

Following more problems with wet weather – this time at a venue in North Yorkshire – the promoters have decided to return to Canada Heights, for a second attempt.

The racing, bouncy castles, zorbing and even Peppa Pig, Fireman Sam and Bob the Builder, arrive on Saturday and Sunday, August 4 and 5. Details at www.redbullpronationals.com.

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Categories: blogs and bloggers | Entertainment | Media | music | Olympics | Showbiz

Opening ceremony will be a stunning show

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Friday, July 27 2012

After 84 months of waiting and planning, it’s Olympic bonanza time.

At least it’s a bonanza for most. Sponsors, athletes, spectators, Danny Boyle, outlets selling fish and chips for £8.50 and a 175ml glass of wine for £5.20, a pint of lager at £4.60 and a bag of Cadbury’s (the official Treat supplier) chocolate sweets for £1 - £3.

It’s been good too for the University of Kent, which expects to make £1.3m from Olympic-related hospitality. Eurostar will be bringing thousands of spectators from the continent to make up for the dip in business travel.

Soldiers drafted in to cover for the G4S fiasco (will they ever win any more government contracts?) may not be so happy. And motorists held up by Zil lane BMWs (they have sensors that automatically change traffic lights from red to green) will be fuming.

But tonight’s opening ceremony will be a great advert for Britain. I saw it in rehearsal earlier in the week and it’s stunning. For all the cynicism and allegations of left-wing bias, it’s a great show, an amazing blend of rural idyll, with cricket as well as sheep on show, and some amazing images depicting the Industrial Revolution.

And, of course, there’s the customary modern dance sequence that aims to show off Cool Britannia. A complex show involving thousands shows that it’s not only the Chinese that can do great opening sequences.

It’s easy to be critical of Locog political correctness and decisions that seem taken straight from a Twenty Twelve script. But let’s face it, the “deliverance” body (ODA), the architects, construction companies and suppliers that make it possible have done a fantastic job.

What a shame that all those Kent firms that won Olympic contracts have not been allowed to promote the fact. Hugh Robertson, Olympic minister and Kent MP, estimates that the Games have been worth more than £30m to our county’s businesses. They should be allowed to talk about it without fear of the brand police.

It’s been a great feat of organisation and leadership, especially by Sebastian Coe. What a Boys Own Hero. What a case study for business inspiration.

Despite the G4S debacle and the odd glitch over the wrong North Korean flag - didn’t the Twenty Twelve scriptwriters think of that one? - it looks as though it’s going to be alright on the night.

The security at the Olympic Park was just like Heathrow, but with plenty of military people and volunteer Games Makers around, it was reasonably quick. Let’s hope there are no incidents over the next few weeks.

The park complex is a fine transformation of derelict land - a great example of regeneration.

But let’s hear it for the volunteers. They were all smiles and eagerness to help. 70,000 are giving up their time, a lot of expense and annual leave to do it. I spoke to some of them at the rehearsal and they were so keen. They also knew the answers to questions from the public. Along with the remarkable Torchbearers (the relay was a great show too that enthused a nation), they are the real heroes of these Games.

I hope I can live up to their example when I’m a Games Maker at the Paralympic Games.

Let the show begin - and savour the next few weeks of sporting achievement that most of us will never see on our doorstep again. And, if it helps tourism and encourages inward investment, as David Cameron desperately hopes, it’s all good for GB Plc and its dynamic Kent subsidiary.

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Categories: Olympics

When the Olympic dart strikes through the heart

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Thursday, July 26 2012

I thought I’d been there, done it, and bought the t-shirt.

My Olympic Torch Relay party at my flat on Friday went without a hitch as the flame which began burning on Mount Olympus passed through Gravesend on its way to the London 2012 Games.

A dozen or so cups of tea were made for family and friends, who piled in to my flat at the normally highly unsociable hour of 9am, ready to claim our spot on Saddington Street in plenty of time, to see the procession pass in and out of the Gurdwara.

We got two bites of the cherry and barely had to walk any distance at all to see such a momentous occasion in British sporting history.

Job done I thought. I’d taken a couple of pictures, waved and cheered like I was at a football match (everyone was doing it so I felt ok) and even seen the torch bearer trip on a sleeping policeman – although thankfully he had kept his balance.

Yet none of that compared to the excitement when Julia Chilcott from Maidstone came into the office for an interview with my colleagues at kmfm about her torch bearing experience.

Julia carried the flame into Leeds Castle and lit the cauldron at the end of Thursday’s run from Deal to the county town.

She walked in almost hugging the golden beacon and its appearance quickly gained more attention than when a newborn baby is brought into the office.

I’d tried to play it cool and watch from afar as colleagues gathered around the torch but before I knew it, I was up there like a wide-eyed schoolboy asking for my picture to be taken with the little piece of history.

As with every torchbearer I’ve met or read about, Julia was delighted to tell everyone her story and more than willing for everyone to get their moment with her treasured possession.

More than seeing the flame, more than cheering and even more than my faultless Olympic Torch Relay party (honest!), this was the moment when the cupid of the Olympic Games drew his arrow and fired it straight through my heart.

There’s a magic to how the torch relay brought everyone in the county together and how it has demonstrated so simply the power of sport.

Boy I cannot wait for the Games now.

  • For daily updates on what is going on at the Olympic Park, follow our man Alex Hoad’s blog. He will be following Kent athletes’ performances throughout the Games. You can follow him on Twitter @KentOnline2012.

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The Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 27 will be too big to watch in your normal, comfy armchair in your uninspiring living room (oh, that’s just me then.)

A large open-air screen will be at Rochester Castle Gardens showing the event live from the Olympic Stadium for free.

A similar big screen will show the ceremony at Gravesend Community Square. Then after watching the spectacular coordinated by film director Danny Boyle – the man behind Slumdog Millionaire – party into the night at a silent disco on the upper Community Square. Tickets are £8 from the Woodville on 01474 337774.

The ceremony will also be shown on the big screen in Dover’s Market Square from 9pm for free, with a Zumbathon getting the atmosphere going from 7pm to 8pm.

Tags:
Categories: Entertainment | Gravesend | kmfm | Media | Medway | Olympics | Rochester | Sport | TV

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