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Kent Tribute Festival organisers to wait before deciding whether to cancel Michael Jackson tribute act Navi

By Jack Dyson

Kent Tribute Festival organisers say it would be a “knee-jerk reaction” to ditch a Michael Jackson act from its line-up in the wake of a controversial documentary alleging the late pop star was a paedophile.

Leaving Neverland, which aired on Channel 4 last week, featured explicit allegations of child sexual abuse made by two men against the world-famous singer, who died in 2009.

Its release has prompted a number of radio stations across the world to remove Jackson’s songs from their playlists.

The real Michael Jackson. Pic: WikiCommons
The real Michael Jackson. Pic: WikiCommons

Although none in the UK has followed suit, a report in The Times suggests BBC Radio 2 has not played one of his tunes since February 23.

However, Gerald McCarthy, who organises the Kent Tribute Festival, says he will wait “a couple of months” before deciding whether to keep a Jacko tribute singer in the event’s line-up.

“We’re waiting to hear from the artist to see if there’s an issue and if he’s continuing or winding down performances before we make any decisions,” he said.

“We don’t want a knee-jerk reaction to it all. In a couple of months’ time we’ll decide.

“We will see how it all unfolds and what public opinion dictates. Judging by what I’ve seen so far, it’s a fairly balanced opinion for and against.”

A Jacko tribute is pencilled in to perform an hour-long set at the festival, which will take place on August 25 at the Strode Park Foundation.

The Trinidadian artist calls himself “the world’s number one Michael Jackson tribute” and has several hundred thousand followers on Facebook.

But Mr McCarthy suggests if any further allegations are made against Jackson, the organisers of the show may be forced to scrap the act.

“There are dozens of Michael Jackson performers around the UK still performing to sell-out audiences,” he added.

“We’ve got to separate the music from what happened. It’s not Michael Jackson performing for us; it’s someone who performs his music.

“He’s performed at the King’s Hall before and he’s very, very popular. When we announced he was performing, there was a small upsurge in interest.

“It’s all the very early and we don’t want to upend people’s careers.”

Gerald McCarthy. Picture: Tony Flashman.
Gerald McCarthy. Picture: Tony Flashman.

The Kent Tribute Festival was first held in Herne Bay two years ago. Over that period, it has drawn large crowds of music fans.

However, Mr McCarthy, who is also a leading member of the BayPromoTeam, says he cannot recall similar levels of controversy surrounding an act.

“It’s a unique situation that we haven’t encountered in the past.

“If people choose not to watch that particular performance, if it goes ahead, then that’s fine; but I suspect there’ll be many who will want to see it.”

Navi is one of eight tribute acts booked to perform at the event in August.

For more information visit www.kenttributefestival.co.uk/tickets.

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