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Castle Concerts at Rochester Castle make loss of more than £300k

By Chris Hunter

Poor ticket sales have prompted questions over whether a new approach is needed to run the annual Castle Concerts.

Medway Council’s aim had simply been to break even from tickets sales, but it's been revealed the shows, held over five days last month at Rochester Castle, made a loss of £305,000.

Tickets sales and attendance coincided with the World Cup - particularly noticeable when Jools Holland’s gig clashed with England’s semi-final match.

UB40 on stage
UB40 on stage

Also, a ban on alcoholic drinks being brought into the ground was not a popular move.

Headline acts included The Australian Pink Floyd Show, Ronan Keating and UB40 featuring Ali Astro and Mickey. The event was rounded up, as usual, with the proms night.

But questions have been asked about whether a more commercial approach could improve the concerts, draw more people and make them more profitable.

“I think the infrastructure costs are so high,” said an insider, who did not wish to be named.

“These things are very difficult to get right and are very expensive to put on, so you’ve got to be bold and know what you’re doing.

“It comes down to selling tickets. It’s how you approach selling the tickets - the marketing needs to be a bit more commercial and tougher.”

And they said that was not necessarily a skill that most council staff had.

Rochester Castle Gardens..Castle Concerts UB40 2018
Rochester Castle Gardens..Castle Concerts UB40 2018

“I don’t think the council employs the appropriate people to do that,” they added. “I think it’s very difficult to expect those people to do what hard-nosed commercial marketeers do.

“I don’t think there was enough mixed media - these concerts are still old-fashioned things - you’ve got to go with paper fliers and newspaper adverts - but I think they missed a trick with social media.

"It’s difficult because if you start doing these things you’ve got to react to it - you’ve got to be brave enough to talk to people.”

Jools Holland at the Castle Concerts 2018
Jools Holland at the Castle Concerts 2018

And they added: “I know the concerts are for the local area, but they can only be good for the local area if they’re sold out and everybody comes.

“They seem to restrict advertising to Medway.”

Carrie McKenzie, assistant director of transformation at Medway Council, said: “We were pleased to welcome thousands of people to Rochester Castle gardens to enjoy this year’s Castle Concerts and feedback told us that those attending had a great time.

“When planning Castle Concerts we aim to provide a range of acts to suit different music tastes.

"Although we did have some big names this year there was also a great range of well known artists performing at other Kent venues this summer so unfortunately not all of the concerts sold out.

“We are currently in the process of booking some great acts for next year and we’re looking forward to welcoming crowds to one of the best concert venues in Kent once again.”

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