Businesses react with disappointment as Blackpool's Livewire Festival is cancelled for a second year
The Livewire Festival - which launched with a bang when it brough Will Smith to Blackpool in 2017 - has been called off for the second year running.
The news has been greeted with disappointment from traders in the resort who had been looking forward to a boost for business over the August bank holiday.
Livewire hit the headlines when global superstar Will Smith performed in front of a sell-out crowd of 20,000 people on the Comedy Carpet.
The organisers of the event – which was due to feature Lauryn Hill and a comedy night with Jason Manford – blamed “investor issues” as the show hit money troubles.
The festival’s second outing was postponed in 2018 after one of the main organisers was taken ill.
Business insiders have said there was some speculation as to the how this year’s festival would live up to the success of the year before last, with the buzz not quite the same for this year’s acts.
Claire Smith, president of hoteliers’ group Stay Blackpool, said the cancellation was a “huge disappointment” but the resort’s businesses would still thrive with the wealth of attractions on offer for residents, day-trippers and holidaymakers.
She said: “It is disappointing obviously but perhaps less than last year, given the stars lined up. Last year, Mariah Carey, it was a name we knew would be a massive draw to the resort and that first year was just so amazing for what it did in bringing people into Blackpool.
“That’s the great thing about these events, the value they have in getting new people to come in and stay in the resort and in doing so hopefully see what other great things there are and make them want to come back.
“It is such a shame as it was a fantastic, memorable event that brought in thousands of visitors – people were excited to see it again and where it was going next.
“Maybe that’s part of the problem, the level of expectation being too much in trying to recreate that first success.
“But it’s important to look forward, this is where we are and while it is a disappointment there is still lots to look forward to over this summer.”
In a statement, the organisers said: “Due to investor issues, this hasn’t been a decision we have taken lightly and have explored every avenue we possibly could to keep the event on.
“However, due to funding we have had no option but to cancel the event.
“We would like to take the opportunity to apologise to all ticket holders, however, this is beyond our control.”
The inaugural year of the Livewire Festival was a smash hit drawing in visitors from all over the UK for a new three-day event during the August bank holiday weekend in 2017.
Widely supported, the live music event more than exceeded expectations, further cementing Blackpool’s status as an entertainment capital worldwide.
As well as Will Smith, that first festival also saw the likes of The Jacksons, Jason Donovan, Sinitta and 80s stars perform for a true pop party. But it was the sight of the ‘Fresh Prince’ underneath the lights of Tower on the final night that kept people talking.
Speaking after that “incredible” show, Will Smith’s son Trey said: “We’ll definitely be back. The people here are so friendly and the energy is amazing.”
But two-years on those star-struck revellers are still waiting for the much anticipated and promised follow-up.
Last year, it was “ill health to key personnel” within the festival management team that led to the event being axed.
Singing sensation and international superstar Mariah Carey was due to make her debut on the Tower Headlands Arena.
It was another big name, another coup for Blackpool but it was not to be.
With such high hopes the town’s representatives and business bodies were vocal in their disappointment but remained positive about the promised return for 2019.
At this year’s ambitious and exciting season launch held at Blackpool Pleasure Beach the festival was billed as one of the big stand-out events on this summer’s packed entertainment calendar, set to “welcome some of the world’s biggest stars”.
This year’s big headline act multi-Grammy winning artist Lauryn Hill of The Fugees fame was announced in April.
The RnB star, who also this year took to the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, was to bring her 20th anniversary tour of ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’to the Headlands Arena stage.
Organisers promised “a feast of live entertainment” which included “Comedy on the Carpet” with Jason Manford; a dedicated family day with Channel 5’s Milkshake team and friends; and a musical extravaganza for the Sunday finale, titled ‘From Movies To Musicals’ with West End stars Ben Forster, John Owen-Jones, Kerry Ellis and Ruthie Henshall.
Ticket sales had been described by a spokesperson as “going well”.
Further acts were scheduled to be announced for the Sunday and the Friday night event but with six weeks to go this still had not been confirmed and then yesterday morning organisers revealed the event would not be going ahead.
The event is a private venture by Livewire Events Ltd, renting the concert arena from Blackpool Council.
A Blackpool Council spokesman said: “It is disappointing that due to circumstances beyond our control Livewire will not be taking place this year.
“We are exploring whether there are other events we can bring in to fill the gap, but visitors to Blackpool can rest assured that the summer and autumn of 2019 will see a fantastic programme of shows and events, many of them free to access.
“These range from the Blackpool Air show in August featuring the debut of the Breitling Jet Team, to World Fireworks, the Illuminations Switch-On party and the inaugural British Country Music Festival in September.”
Livewire Events could not be reached for further comment as it remains to be seen whether it tries to revive the event again next year having reached the end of the three-year contract with the council.
The Switch-On takes place on August 31 with the star set to be announced soon.