For a long time I was very tempted to buy a ticket for ATP's Jabberwocky - but now I'm feeling I dodged a bullet. The event was cancelled on Tuesday, just three days before it was due to take place, and the fall-out is proving very messy indeed.
In the initial statement announcing the cancellation, ATP cited ticket sales as the crux of the issue - although "healthy", their efforts "could not take those sales to the point that we needed to finally stage the event". The obligatory reference to "an increasingly aggressive festival market" will once again raise suspicions that saturation point might have been reached, but that would ignore the quality of the line-up. I wonder whether the fact that it clashed with Green Man - a well-established festival boasting a stellar bill of bands popular with the ATP demographic - may have been a factor. I also wonder whether having slightly fewer artists on what was an ambitious bill or charging a bit more for tickets (it did seem exceptionally good value for money) might have helped - only the organisers could answer that.
Either way, they say the decision to pull the plug was taken reluctantly, but that on this occasion simply pressing ahead and attempting to absorb the losses "would have 100% been the end of ATP". Even still, the cancellation itself has left the company - which has already bounced back from liquidation once, in 2012 - in a perilous position.
For a start, ATP's dispute with ticketing partners Dash has left punters confused about whether they will actually be able to get a refund. Dash have threatened legal action, but ATP are attempting to work with them to resolve the issue and ensure refunds are paid out. However, that won't compensate fans for the costs of any travel or accommodation booked, and they are naturally likely to be more hesitant to buy tickets for future events - such as the second ATP Iceland, which ATP has insisted will go ahead as planned.
Second, you'd imagine that lawsuits from Dash and PR firm Zeitgeist could both prove crippling to the company.
Third, while some of the bands invited to play were able to make alternative arrangements for gigs in London at the last minute, most will be left out of pocket by the cancellation. As with the punters, you'd suspect it will seriously damage ATP's ability to attract artists in future.
However, let's not dwell on the above - as ATP's follow-up statement pleaded, "If anyone out there says they believe in what we do; now is the time to
support us more than ever, rather than letting others try and kick us
while we are down". As a veteran of many ATP events, I certainly do count myself as a believer and have no interest in trash talk or spreading malicious rumours. Their passion is there for all to see in the evident hurt they're feeling at both having to cancel and the subsequent fall-out. The world is a much better place for ATP's activities and I for one sincerely hope they make it out of the wreckage in one piece.