Assembly Festival founder and artistic director William Burdett-Coutts said the event’s future is in doubt due to a £1.5m debt left by the Coventry City of Culture Trust going into liquidation.
Edinburgh Fringe’s Assembly team organised the Assembly Festival Garden for Coventry’s City of Culture in 2021, but Burdett-Coutts said his team has not yet been paid by the trust.
Burdett-Coutts said the event is surviving on a short-term loan after the trust went into liquidation in February, leaving only three months for his team to find a “viable solution”.
Burdett-Coutts told BBC Scotland that the liquidation has caused a “massive hole” in Assembly’s finances: “We’re a small organisation so it’s not something we can absorb. So we’ve got to find some way and somebody has to take responsibility.”
Speaking at the launch of the 2023 Assembly Festival, Burdett-Coutts said, “We’ve survived to this festival by taking on a short-term loan, and this will get us through to the end of the festival, but whether we can be here in 2024 is a very good question – we’ve got about three months to solve the problem.
“The sad thing about it is we have been left in a situation which I think is almost criminal,” said Burdett-Coutts. “The designers and builders of the City of Culture are the DCMS and Coventry Council. Both of them have tried to wash their hands of the situation but it is clear from the administrator’s report – the people that deal with clearing up all the mess – and a recent National Audit Office report, that both carry an integral responsibility.”
Burdett-Coutts went on to thank the Scottish Government which he said is urging DCMS to step in. “Remarkably, the Scottish Government wrote to them over a month ago and they have yet to get a reply,” he said.