Calls for criminal investigation into Gwen Gwen Festival flop

A local businessman in Kidwelly has said that there should be a criminal investigation into the debacle surrounding the cancellation of the Gwen Gwen Festival.

Leigh Hipkiss who runs Reflect Education, which deals with people with complex needs said that he was shocked when organisers approached him at the last minute asking if he could host some of the bands, which were supposed to appear at the main festival.

Mr Hipkiss said: “I had organisers here on Saturday asking if we could put acts on. They have also taken credit for the way in which something was saved by the community despite hiding away in a local pub all weekend surrounded by security guards.”

Mr Hipkiss who put on a free family event at Capel Sul a former chapel, which he hopes to regenerate for community use said that his background is in music production and he wanted to put on a free event for service users. He said his organisation struggles as the margins are tight with staff wages and the cost of living crisis. Mr Hipkiss has not received funding or grants. He said: “We have been open nine years this year. It has been hard graft by ourselves. No one paid for our festival this weekend it was all done with volunteers and a great community effort.”

He said: “We put on a free event for the service users and families. The capacity is just under 500 people. This year is the first time we had a bar and we did this to try and recoup some of the money we spend on the event. We don’t get any funding. It is free entry but we have to cover the costs of setting up and security etc. almost 400 people stayed here enjoying the festival in the rain.

Capel Sul Festival

Speaking about the Gwen Gwen festival flop Mr Hipkiss said: “I’m not sure I know where to start. The weather wasn’t great on first day and they did not put down mats to protect the field. I think there was a breakdown within the organisation. There were rumours that they did not have the money to pay the artists and the security. I can see no reason why the festival could not have gone ahead unless they they did not have money.”

Capel Sul Festival

Mr Hipkiss said that the organisers hardly spoke to him about the event until things started going wrong. He said: “They backtracked when people left site to go home and it seems others worked hard to put on something for the people still in Kidwelly. I have been here all weekend without internet and I have been very busy so I have not seen the news or seen any comments on social media.”

Capel Sul Festival

Mr Hipkiss was critical over the lack of involvement of local suppliers. He said: “I don’t know who all the traders were but many were not local. A lot of local businesses closed and I am not sure if they were included. Some pubs were busy. If people are brought in from away for example the Sound engineers it is not going to benefit the local economy.”

Capel Sul Festival

Asked if the organisers had been open and transparent Mr Hipkiss said: “They haven’t been transparent they have lied. No one has been given answers they have been hiding in Kidwelly with security guards and local people don’t trust them.

Mr Hipkiss started the small family event for people on the autistic spectrum and their families and friends but now locals have thrown their support behind it. Mr Hipkiss said: “ Our long term plan is to open up public access to the building. Our main goal is creating opportunities locally. We are just a bunch of teachers. I have a brother who is on the spectrum.”

Capel Sul Festival

Asked what he would do with £270,000 Mr Hipkiss said: “I wouldn’t know where to start. It is a massive amount of money. The reason we are on stop with the building is partly planning; it is a listed building. We don’t have that kind of money and that is the reason we can only go at this pace.We could get that building finished and do a lot more with that kind of money.”

Asked if he thought the money was squandered Mr Hipkiss said: “You can’t justify losing that amount of money. People should be qualified and experienced to put on large events. Yes people are angry at the organisers. I don’t know who is responsible, whether the town council has some responsibility,but someone has to take responsibility for this. Nobody can justify what has happened, it is criminal. People should know where the money has gone for the 2022 and 2023 festival. People I have spoken to are angry and frustrated. Two people seem to be at the centre of it all and people are pointing the finger at them. Perhaps others responsible have walked away from it.

Parc Stephens site of the Gwen Gwen Festival

Asked how his own mini festival went Mr Hipkiss said: “It has been marvellous here. The difference between us and them is that we don’t see them digging deep to help anyone out. We have been here clearing while they have had their heads down in the pub. They have not taken responsibility. They should be helping putting the football pitch back together. There are a lot of very unhappy people in Kidwelly. We will put on our mini festival again next year albeit limited for capacity. We enjoy it even though it is hard work. We want to keep it free but and we have already started planing for next year.”

Asked if the Gwen Gwen Festival should go ahead next year Mr Hipkiss said: “It is the the end of the festival, even if local different organisers come forward. There should be a criminal investigation. The organisers should never be allowed to organise another festival anywhere.”

Both the Town Council and Black Cat Strategy have been contacted for comment.

Please donate here: Support Carmarthenshire News Online Thank you for supporting independent journalism and contributing to the future of local news in Carmarthenshire. Carmarthenshire News Online has been dedicated to providing unbiased and trustworthy news, free from commercial or political influence. By donating as little as £1, you can help ensure the continuation of this important source of information for the community. Your contribution will have a significant impact on the sustainability of independent journalism. If you're looking to enhance your brand's visibility, we also offer advertising opportunities on our Livestream and podcasts. Our special offers provide excellent value for reaching our engaged audience. To learn more about these opportunities and to discuss your advertising needs, please feel free to call or text us at 07308598604. Thank you again for your support, and together we can ensure the availability of quality local news for Carmarthenshire and beyond.

Please donate here: Support Carmarthenshire News Online

You cannot copy any content of this page