Big name comics pull out of Wicksteed Comedy in the Park gig following summer of cancellations and delays

Hundreds of people say they're owed money by Easy Ticketing

Friday, 20th August 2021, 6:42 am
Updated Friday, 20th August 2021, 2:11 pm
The Comedy in the Park gigs are fast becoming a self-parody after a third of the line-up pulled out

Comedians Russell Kane, Judi Love, Rob Beckett and Dara O Briain have announced they will not take part in next year's Comedy in the Park gigs taking place at venues across the country including Wicksteed Park.

All the comedians have the same agent which announced on social media this week that its stars would now no longer be involved. Beckett and Love had all been due to appear at the Wicksteed gig alongside local favourite James Acaster, John Bishop, Al Murray and Tom Davis. Ticketholders have not been informed of the changed line-up and tickets remain for sale on the Comedy in the Park website.

Meanwhile, other people who bought tickets to see popular comedian Katherine Ryan at Wicksteed Park say they still haven't been refunded after the gig was pulled at the last minute.

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Comedy in the Park has been postponed until next summer - but some of the original line-up have now cancelled

It comes after music fans were told that refunds were not an option after Wicksteed Open Air Theatre gigs by Craig David, McFly and UB40, all due to take place on the August bank holiday weekend, were postponed to next year despite Covid restrictions already being lifted.

Local people have begun to grow concerned about the future of the events and have requested refunds, fearing they may be left out of pocket. But the firm that sold the tickets, Easy Ticketing, says that its Ts&Cs prevent refunds for rescheduled gigs, even if audience members have prior arrangements.

The popular Comedy in the Park event is being run under the Wicksteed Open Air Theatre banner, promoted by M&B Promotions. Both Easy Ticketing and M&B Promotions are run by the same sole director - Pamela Murray who is based at an accountancy firm in Coventry. The previous director, Melissa Austin, resigned in May.

The firm is also promoting other Comedy in the Park gigs at Lincoln, Southport, Gloucester, Leeds, Exeter and Norwich.

But now some of the most popular names that had been due to take to the stage have withdrawn. A message from agent Off the Kerb posted on Twitter said: "We regret to announce Rob Beckett, Judi Love, Russell Kane and Dara O Briain will no longer be performing at M&B Promotion’s Comedy in the Park events which are due to be rescheduled into 2022.

"We do not agree with and have had no part in M&B Promotion, Gigantic Tickets, or Easy Ticketing’s policy on withholding ticket holders money and not offering a refund despite these events being postponed and rescheduled

"We apologise to anyone who had purchased tickets to see Rob, Judi, Russell or Dara and for any disappointment this may have caused."

Off the Kerb then clarified to say that Gigantic Tickets had, in fact, been offering refunds.

Wicksteed Park, who are not organising the events but are being paid for the use of their land, have today apologised to local people and have said they are 'reliant on the revenue'.

A spokesman said: "We would like to apologise for the uncertainty and confusion surrounding events due to be held at Wicksteed Park by M&B Promotions.

"As the venue booked by the promoter for the events, we are also seeking clarity on the situation as we are relying on revenue from them to help with the park’s recovery.

"The events are not our events but we accept that by agreeing for them to be held at the park we have given them our support.

"We are liaising with other venues due to host M&B events, and which appear to be in a similar situation to us, and are working to try and find out as much information as possible, which we will share as soon as we can."

The Comedy in the Park gigs have been billed as some of the biggest of the summer. Sales websites say: "The Wicksteed Open Air Theatre is an immersive theatre experience in a unique picturesque setting of Ketterings Wicksteed Park, the oldest mainland theme park in the UK.

"At the UK’s largest open air theatre, the park and park rides will remain open throughout the day for you to enjoy the amazing views and settings, you can then expect to be amazed when stepping into the arena, with a variety of bars and delicious street food on offer, coupled with the greatest names in entertainment on stage, you can be sure that you will have an experience like no other."

When they were originally postponed, an email sent to ticketholders urged them not to contact the artists or the venues. But many customers did so anyway, leading to headliner John Bishop making a statement telling people he was looking forward to the rescheduled gigs.

The Katherine Ryan gig, was originally due to take place on February 17 but was then postponed to July 16 this year because of Covid restrictions. But then three days before the gig, Easy Ticketing announced it would not be going ahead. A gig by Katherine due to take place a few days later in Norwich was cancelled on the day of the event, with the reason given that a member of the team had tested positive for Covid.

In a message to ticket holders on July 13, Easy Ticketing said: "The event organisers have informed us that the Katherine Ryan event in Kettering has been cancelled.

"Unfortunately this event could not go ahead with social distancing measures in place.

"A rescheduled date was also considered to allow this event to go ahead but this was not feasible."

The email told people they were entitled to a full refund because the gig had been cancelled but if they had booked tickets more than six months before - which most had, as the event sold out quickly after going on sale last September - then they had to get in contact with Easy Ticketing via email. Those who have contacted the Northants Telegraph have yet to receive a refund.

Kelly Stowe, who spent £99 on two tickets for the show including a whopping £9 booking fee said: "My partner's sent them emails and I think he had one email back saying that they'd process the refund but nothing has happened.

"It's a hell of a lot of money to just flush away."

Katherine Ryan's agent Kitty Laing told this newspaper that they have done their best to help fans get refunds as quickly as possible. She said: "I heard this afternoon from someone else who was waiting for a refund from Easy Ticketing for a Norwich gig Katherine was doing that had to be cancelled that they’ve just had their money back,so that’s a relief.

"We’d been doing what we could from our side to expedite it as much as possible.

"So hopefully everyone else will soon on the Wicksteed event.

"We were not at all happy about the delay and everyone should have had a refund if they wanted one."

Easy Ticketing have removed their phone number from their website and now the only way to contact them is by email. However, emails have been going unanswered and now dozens of frustrated people in Kettering have been telling their stories online.

Jason Brice posted on a local Facebook group that he had tried to get a refund for two events postponed to next year. He said: "For those people that purchased tickets for 80s in the Park and Comedy in the Park, I have been pushing for a refund without success.

"I haven't contacted Wicksteed Park yet, however I am concerned that people are being reassured these events will take place in 2022."

Another woman said: "No refund, no help, no choice. Complete shambles."

Another said: "I was successful in getting a refund for Katherine Ryan but it took about ten emails over six months with Easy Ticketing. After a run-around I eventually got my refund paid by bank transfer. It wasn't easy though."

And another angry comedy fan who is owed £400 said: "We thought we'd be seeing comedy in the park, but the joke's on us unfortunately."

The rescheduled dates for the events due to take place this year are all on subsequent days next year: 80s in the Park, June 2; McFly, June 3; Comedy in the Park, June 4; UB40, June 5 and Craig David, June 6. They are all still scheduled to go ahead though anyone who has tickets for the rescheduled dates but cannot attend will not be entitled to a refund.

The Northants Telegraph has contacted M&B Promotions, Wicksteed Open Air Theatre, Easy Ticketing, and Off the Kerb. None of them have yet responded to our request for comment.