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Boomtown Fair co-founder explains stake sell-off

Boomtown Fair co-founder Lak Mitchell has described the sale of a minority stake in the UK music festival as the “hardest thing we have ever done” but admitted that the strains of the pandemic meant that finding new investment was the “only option”.

Last month, Boomtown confirmed it had sold off a 45% stake, with promoters Live Nation UK & Ireland and Gaiety each acquiring an 18% shareholding, while SJM snapped up 9%.

“We’ve been the biggest independent festival in the country for years,” Mitchell said, according to Standout Magazine.

“We’re fiercely independent and proud of that so to have to let go of our baby and allow people to come in was difficult.”

The Hampshire festival was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and received a £991,000 Cultural Recovery Fund grant from the UK Government. 

“We were in this place where our only option was to find some investment and sell shares in the company,” Mitchell added.

“When COVID landed, Boomtown lost £2m and as an independent, we didn’t have funds in reserve; what we had, didn’t touch the sides. We managed to get a CIBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme) loan, put staff on furlough, and we received a round of funding from the Culture Recovery Fund. It helped the company stay afloat and helped cash flow.”

Live Nation UK & Ireland chair Denis Desmond and chief operating officer Stuart Douglas joined the board of Boomtown Festival UK and its parent company Circus of Boom on July 6.

More than 70,000 attended the most recent event, which ran from August 10-14. 

Image: Sam Warrenger | TheFestivals/CC BY 4.0/Edited for size