Saturday, 4 June 2016

The Burden of Hope: ATP, It's Time To Go

Let me start by saying I’m gutted. Truly gutted. Like many, All Tomorrow’s Parties meant the world to me. Yes, the world.

I was fortunate enough to attend four of these spellbinding weekends, not counting various other one-off events, such as Release the Bats and ATP in Australia spearheaded by The Drones. Over the past 10 to 15 years, many people have based their lives around this artistic institution, including sacrifices that have been made. From a personal point of view, I worked all year to save up my holidays just so I could travel to England from Australia to attend. I even based my honeymoon around Jabberwocky! Like many, at the time I took that particular cancellation on the chin, merely giving ATP a leave pass, because, well, it was ATP! An institution where lifetime friendships have been forged and memories will forever remain. When you’re having a shit day, you cast your mind back to Minehead or Camber Sands, having a ciggy and a cup of tea outside your chalet talking shit with your mates while seeing who can spot the biggest seagull. All of a sudden, the day isn’t so bad and that's not even mentioning the slew of incredible acts that have graced the stage at this festival. Yes, these are the imprints this great festival has left on many.

Now, I’ll probably be castigated for these comments. Called a cunt and various other delightful remarks. As per the tone of this blog, it seldom ventures into negative territory, but after weeks of deliberation, I feel that this needs saying.

With its legacy well and truly tarnished via the suspected activities of its founder, ATP doesn’t need to take a Rohypnol and go to sleep for the afternoon. The stone cold truth of the matter is that, for its own good, it actually needs to end. Enough is enough. Too many people have been hurt due to perpetual financial mayhem, shoddy business practice and an astounding lack of accountability.

There’s a long list of that have suffered at the hands of ATP, not limited to musicians, production crews, optimistic creditors impaired by the burden of hope, and most notably, the fans. The decibels of denial echoed by Barry Hogan’s devoted few won’t change that fact either, and are merely nothing more than a ceaseless ego stroking exercise at the mercy of blind faith.

As for this whole argument of anti-establishment sentiments and sticking it to the man. People have talked about corporate sponsorship and Hogan's unremitting refusal to go down that path. While the sentiment is most certainly admirable, by the same token a few Converse or Vans (or insert whatever) banners at the side of stage are merely wallpaper to most of us. Quite simply, it's all about the music, with or without a few advertisements from solid outside supporters. Say what you like, but sponsorship of this magnitude wouldn’t have impaired the awesomeness of ATP. It just wouldn’t have. Besides, dining at Minehead's Pizza Hut to the sounds Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was quite unique and, actually, kind of fucking cool, if not slightly odd. I didn't see many boycotting Burger King, either, just quietly. A dose of saturated fat to suppress a hangover didn't hurt anybody...

In a cruel twist of fate, it’s a plausible argument to suggest that it was actually the fucking establishment which enabled ATP to operate within the paradigms of “the system”. The various companies created, the alleged shifting of assets and various other frugal practices demonstrated by a flawed businessman. All the sneaky loopholes within a defective financial system which empower those with imaginary business acumen to prosper. That doesn’t strike me as sticking it to the man. It actually strikes me as sticking it up the arse of your respected factions. Rubbing shoulders in a corporate world rife with turf accountants, which is quite ironic considering Hogan himself parted with the analogy that organising a festival is likened to, yes, a horse race. While the dubious specimens operating within the system of the establishment are as much to blame as anyone for this farce, that doesn’t exonerate Hogan himself from reproach. I’m no numbers guy, but fiscally it’s evident that the man is a disaster. The “yeah, she’ll be right, mate, we trust you,” mentality won’t wash anymore. Borrowing money to pay off past debts is a recipe for disaster and the very system enabling this to occur should be questioned more than it has, thus far. As a result ATP's cards should be well and truly marked.

As for certain quarters calling for government bailouts (because Spain and Poland do it, look at the bigger picture!) I think we all know the position of the British Government. Yes, the self-serving Tories don’t much care for a bunch of snotty idealistic middle-class kids with Pavement vinyl in one hand, a copy of The Guardian in the other. I can almost hear the collective echo from the Houses of Parliament; “Dip into your parents’ trust fund, you little fuckers”.

Finger pointing aside, of this there is little doubt. ATP’s legacy has been destroyed beyond repair. Its entrusted base of followers has been blinded by the sheer power of music (guilty) and a couple of slices of hedonism (hmm, okay, guilty there, too). For so many years that very base of followers made ATP the success it truly was, which, in turn, was presented to us by its architect, Barry Hogan; I sincerely thank him for that. But paraphrasing what Steven Patrick Morrissey once said. If you read your good press, then you have to read your bad press, too. Once the orchestrator of some of the greatest times many of us have ever experienced in our lives, sadly Barry Hogan is now the proverbial shepherd who has ushered his flock to the slaughter. A person who doesn’t know when enough is enough.

By Simon K.