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Biggest Belgian alternative music festival Pukkelpop cancels – bands, bookers and subcontractors claim the organizer Chokri Mahassine overplayed his hand

By Jul 24,2021

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Biggest Belgian alternative music festival Pukkelpop cancels - bands, bookers and subcontractors claim the organizer Chokri Mahassine overplayed his hand

There is a stream of criticism towards the way Pukkelpop organizer Chokri Mahassine has managed his festival in the past few months, by keeping on selling tickets although he must have known things were not looking well for festivals this Summer.

Ticket sale faltered after some time, several foreign bands never listed the festival

On 11 May, Pukkelpop organizer Chokri Mahassine had triumphantly announced that the 4-day festival would continue at full capacity this year (66,000 visitors per day). At that time, there was still a lockdown light in the cultural sector with outdoor activities for up to 50 people. On 9 June this became a maximum of 400, from 1 July a maximum of 2500 people.

Nevertheless, while other organizers kept on having doubts about such a massive event, ticketing was launched, which got off to a good start, but also faltered after some time. And that’s not all. Belgian bookers and band(management)s received little or no answer about the state of affairs. And the doubts didn’t disappear, it was highly questionable that foreign artists’ tours would go ahead for the simple reason that the other major festivals abroad with the same line-up had also ended up in very uncertain waters because of the combination of strict government policy and rising infection rates.

But Chokri Mahassine kept on denying growing fear that festival would not take place. And then there was the proverbial bomb of last Friday when the festival announced that due to the ‘changed validity period of the Corona tests’, the festival would not take place.

Chokri Mahassine talked too prematurely

Bullshit according to Eric Smout, coordinator of the music club Democrazy and programmer at the OLT Rivierenhof, who posted an update on Facebook claiming that Pukkelop overplayed its hand.

Eric Smout: “Chokri Mahassine talked too prematurely about his festival at full capacity on 11 May. Fewer days, limited capacity, different communication and a realistic step-by-step plan would have been smarter. He could also have paid more attention to the possible obstacles in terms of testing.”

And Smout continues: “Chokri pulled the entire industry into this drama: bands, bookers, management and technicians. Each of these has tailored his/her Summer to Pukkelpop: both in terms of time and engagement and last but not least income. Pukkelpop had also struck an exclusivity deal with many Belgian acts, which meant that they could not play or play in other places this Summer. And now they all stay empty handed.”

Questions remain

A few other questions remain:

  • Did Chokri Mahassine know all this time he would cancel the festival again after last year’s cancellation?
  • Did foreign bands cancel months ago already as is being suggested here and there since a lot of foreign bands never put the festival in their online tour sections?
  • If that is the case, why did Mahassine ignore the demands for information from artists, bookers and ticket buyers for all these weeks and months?

Several Belgian politicians have already suggested that there is way more to the story than what Mahassine has been saying, even suggesting he would willingly have lied about the state of affairs to cash in on public funds worth over 2 million euros which the Flemish government will try to recoup.

A scandal in development…

 

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