Now Wicksteed comedy line-up loses hometown hero James Acaster

Just one of the six artists originally on the bill remains after the woefully-handled event was moved to 2022

Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 7:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 10:01 am
James Acaster creating his Wicksteed Park tribute on Great British Bake Off.

Kettering's own James Acaster is the latest comedian who won't be performing at next year's woefully-handed rescheduled Wicksteed Park gig.

The 36-year-old - who grew up in the town and once worked at the much-loved park - was due to perform at a huge Comedy in the Park event earlier this year which was later postponed to June 4, 2022, because of Covid uncertainty.

He once created a Great British Bake Off showstopper in tribute to the park and said it was his lifelong goal to perform there when the event was first announced in 2020.

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But now the Northants Telegraph can reveal hometown hero Acaster will not be on the bill for next year's rescheduled event because he is already booked for another project on June 4. It's understood ticket-holders have not been informed of the change to the line-up.

It means just one of the six comedians on the bill when tickets were first sold - John Bishop - will be performing next year with many ticket-holders who had hoped to see Acaster on stage at a hometown gig left disappointed. It's understood ticket-holders have not been informed of the change to the line-up.

The event is being held under the Wicksteed Open Air Theatre banner, promoted by M&B Promotions.

Rob Beckett and Judi Love pulled out last month after concerns that ticket-holders who couldn't make the rearranged date were not being refunded, with agents Off The Kerb saying they would not be performing at any Comedy in the Park events in 2022 because they did not agree with a policy not to refund people. Ticketing has since been moved to a new firm who do offer refunds and those who booked under the previous firm who cannot attend have been urged to contact the promoters.

Tom Davis and Al Murray, who had been advertised as performing at the Wicksteed Park gig, later distanced themselves from the gig on social media and said they had not been booked for the new rescheduled dates.

Wicksteed Open Air Theatre's website is now not selling tickets to the event and is instead offering people the chance to 'register' for it. Their website confirms John Bishop will be performing, joined by a 'host of other top name comedians'.

A statement released by Wicksteed Open Air Theatre last week said they were "working hard to resolve any issues" and hope to announce the final line-up in due course. They said full refunds would be offered if the event was cancelled but did not believe that would be the case.

Music events including gigs by Craig David, McFly and UB40 were also moved to next year with fans originally told refunds were not an option for those or the comedy event.

The Wicksteed Open Air Theatre statement also updated ticketholders on whether they could get a refund, depending on who they bought their tickets with.

It said: "Our ticketing terms and conditions were put in place to safeguard our company during a great period of uncertainty. EasyTicketing is not the only company who have a policy of not refunding rescheduled dates. Lots of bigger promoters and ticket agents have a similar policy for rescheduled shows.

"That being said, in May of this year we appointed a new director to take over the day to day running of M&B and help us move forward positively. We have now moved all our ticketing over to Gigantic who do offer refunds for rescheduled shows.

"We appreciate that this will not help people who have bought tickets for Wicksteed Open Air Theatre shows via EasyTicketing but encourage anyone who can not attend the event due to exceptional circumstances to get in touch with us directly.

"We will respond to everyone who wishes to contact us but ask you to be patient as we are a small team. To get in touch directly please email [email protected]"

And after Wicksteed Park themselves were inundated with complaints theatre bosses made it clear the shambles was nothing to do with those at the park.

The statement said: "We apologise for the confusion and inconvenience that rescheduling our events caused. The majority of ticket holders have been incredibly supportive and understanding of our position which we greatly appreciate.

"The decision to reschedule the Wicksteed Park Open Air Theatre dates rests with us and has nothing to do with Wicksteed Park’s owners or any of the artists booked for the events.

"We ask that all ticket holders refrain from contacting them directly. We are working closely with our partners to resolve any issues."

Wicksteed Park, who are not organising the events but are being paid for the use of their land, previously apologised to local people and 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."