Stewart Lee Discusses ATP Rumours

"I'm in the same boat as everyone else", he tells The Quietus

Stewart Lee, curator of one of the two ATP 2.0 festivals currently at the centre of cancellation rumours, has spoken to The Quietus about the still-developing story. The comedian, due to headline and curate the event at Pontin’s in Prestatyn between April 15 and 17 (with the following weekend being curated by San Diego post-hardcore band Drive Like Jehu), told us his side of things at midday today (Tuesday March 1), 24 hours after the story broke. At the time of the interview, all that was known was that Pontins have been responding to enquires, including from The Quietus, by stating that "Unfortunately, the organisers have cancelled the event". All Tomorrow’s Parties had responded by vehemently denying that the event had been cancelled.

"I got in about half four yesterday," Lee told us, "and I saw on the internet that someone had got a screen-grab of a thing from Pontin’s, saying ‘The organiser has cancelled this event’. Well, the organiser won’t have cancelled the event. So that must be a standard thing that goes out from Pontin’s if there’s some sort of problem. Which is probably a problem about payment, or something like that. A debt for the rent. It’s now five past twelve the next day, and it’s unlikely that anybody in the Pontin’s office will have started dealing with it before about 11.00am, so we don’t really know anything about it. Barry [Hogan, of ATP] said there’d be a statement from Pontin’s about it this afternoon. The other thing is that there won’t be anyone at Pontin’s who knows what ATP is. They’ve just got a booking for the weekend, and for all they know, it’s a bowls weekend. They won’t know or care that someone’s coming from Texas, or something. So it’s a bit difficult to find out what the problem is. But, added to that, I can see why people’s alarm bells are ringing, given that he’s cancelled two events."

Asked whether he had any doubts about becoming involved with ATP, given their track record of previous cancellations, going bust and subsequently resurrecting via phoenix companies, Lee replied "Well, that’s what companies do, isn’t it? They re-capitalise. But my experience of it as a punter has always been really good. I’ve been to about five of them. I’ve never performed, always did it as a punter. That’s why I was really keen to do it. I mean, since Jerry Springer: The Opera, I’ve made a rule of never getting involved in anything that’s bigger than me. Because you can’t keep track of everything. And this is the first thing I’ve done in fifteen years that I’ve done, like that. And this is exactly why I don’t normally do it, because there’s stuff happening and you can’t immediately find out what it is. But you’ll know, by this afternoon, exactly as much as me."

Explaining the process of curating the event, Lee told us "I started with a list from scratch. But I’m not the promoter. I haven’t got a contract with them. And I think he (Barry Hogan) probably pursued some people more enthusiastically than others. I know he’s booked some things without knowing what they are, at all. Hahaha! But we’ll see what happens. Them and Terrascope, the people who used to do that Ptolemaic Terrascope fanzine, they were the original boutique festivals. And now it’s become a thing where people think, ‘Oh yeah, you can go to a small festival which has got some kind of an identity’. And I suppose you’re in a service-provider, customer-client relationship now, partly because they invented that model. So at half past two, I’ll probably find out what’s going on."

"I did see one thing, though, last night," he continued. "This is the weird thing about the internet. I’ve got a mailing list, right, and I normally send out an email, once a month, about what I’m doing. And just last night I sent out about three things I wanted to flag up: a benefit I’m doing on Thursday night, and the new TV series. And because ATP wasn’t on there, that was interpreted by the Twittersphere as meaning that I knew that it wasn’t happening. But all the dates I’ve got lined up, all year, also weren’t on it. I just wanted to highlight those two things. And this situation wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago. Some phone calls would have been made, and it would have been dampened down before it became what it is. The problem now is that it immediately goes into a thing like this."

Lee remains cautiously optimistic about the event going ahead. "At the moment, of course it’s terrifying for people. It’s not great for me either, to be honest. You know, I’ve got a babysitter, I’ve made plans, so in that respect I’m in the same boat as everyone else. I didn’t sleep last night, I thought I was gonna have a stroke or something. I suppose the way these things work is that ATP hoped that whatever good reputation I might have would become attached to the event… but the other side of that is that when things go bad, that becomes attached to me! The one time I do something like this, it would just be typical if it goes wrong. But I hope it goes ahead. I’d like to see that line-up happen."

A full interview with Stewart Lee will appear in The Quietus tomorrow.

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