Harborough company collapses - owing local customers and organisations thousands of pounds

The Fleckney Group has collapsed just days after his Beachfest show at the Showground site in Market Harborough over the August bank holiday weekend faced criticism from some angry families

By Red Williams
Monday, 13th September 2021, 12:10 pm
The Fleckney Group has collapsed just days after his Beachfest show at the Showground site in Market Harborough over the August bank holiday weekend faced criticism from some angry families
The Fleckney Group has collapsed just days after his Beachfest show at the Showground site in Market Harborough over the August bank holiday weekend faced criticism from some angry families

A Harborough company which staged a “shambolic” three-day family festival in Market Harborough last month has folded – owing furious local customers and organisations thousands of pounds.

The Fleckney Group has suddenly shut down after managing director and events director Michael Preston admitted to the Harborough Mail that it’s gone into insolvency this week.

Mr Preston’s company has collapsed just days after his Beachfest show at the Showground site in Market Harborough over the August bank holiday weekend faced criticism from some angry families.

The Fleckney Group has suddenly shut down after managing director and events director Michael Preston admitted to the Harborough Mail that it’s gone into insolvency this week.

He also advertised that the high-profile event from Saturday August 28 - Monday August 30 would star three top tribute bands – The Ultimate Boy Band Party Show, Queenz and Frankie’s Guys.

But the man who promotes all three headline acts, David Michael, has told the Mail that despite the claims Mr Preston did not book any of his bands.

And that has made scores of people across Harborough who snapped up tickets to see them perform unhappy.

Leicestershire Trading Standards are now launching an urgent investigation into the “sorry episode” after being alerted by the Mail.

Cllr Phil King, who leads Harborough District Council, branded the whole affair “deeply concerning” as he urged anyone who’s lost out to contact Trading Standards now.

Mr Preston said: “I have gone into insolvency this week.

“A number of things have caused this.

“Our drive-in cinema venue hasn’t worked out as well as we’d hoped.

“I’ve also had issues with Harborough council over licensing.

“They’ve not helped me at all,” said Mr Preston, who set up the Fleckney Group as a limited company in 2019 and is believed to be in his 20s.

“We’ve had to cancel events because we were being punished as a result of this summer’s loud fireworks display – which had nothing to do with me.

“That caused a lot of issues around noise,” said the entrepreneur.

He was forced to cancel an Elton John tribute act on Friday night (September 10) after shutting down – with tickets costing an average £40 each.

“The liquidators are trying to sort all of this out but unfortunately there will be no refunds for people,” admitted Mr Preston.

He was asked repeatedly in several phone interviews if he had actually booked the three bands to perform at the Beachfest extravaganza.

“I am not commenting on that,” he said, before putting down the phone every time.

Mr Preston’s company website is still advertising coach trips to London and Austria – costing from £999 – later this month.

But the businessman, who also drives the coach, refused to say how many people have already booked to go on them.

David Michael, who runs David Michael Productions, promotes and looks after Frankie’s Guys, Queenz and The Ultimate Boy Band Party Show.

Based in Surrey, he told the Mail: “Michael Preston did not book any of our bands to go along and appear at his Beachfest show.

“Let’s make that clear.

“I have heard from one or two people who went along to see them specially that they’d been let down.

“Michael Preston hired Frankie’s Guys a while ago for a drive-in movie event he was doing.

“I helped him out and it went OK,” said David.

“He said he’d be interested in booking all three of my acts to star at one of his future shows.

“We quoted him for all three bands – it would run into several thousand pounds.

“I told him further along the line that deposits would have to be paid and contracts signed.

“But I heard nothing more – so the deal was never sealed,” insisted David.

“I chased it once more but there was still nothing so I left it.

“But then I started hearing from fans that we hadn’t turned up at the (Beachfest) festival even though we’d been billed to be there,” said David.

“I told Michael Preston I want compensation for the use of our images and trailers promoting his show.”

Mr Preston told the Mail after receiving a fusillade of criticism about Beachfest that “artists were dropping out” at the last minute.

But David declared: “How could acts such as mine drop out when they hadn’t been booked in the first place?

“There has been damage to my brand as a result and I’m obviously not happy about that.

“I want an official statement from him totally absolving us from being involved with any sort of letdown.

“Michael Preston knows that we were not booked – and never had been,” said the showbiz promoter and agent.

“I put that to him and he claimed it was a website error – and that’s not good enough.

“Then he said he couldn’t reply to me because he was away on holiday.

“He told me he’d gone into insolvency – and I told him to add me to his list of creditors.

“We’re moving forward now and putting this entire sorry episode behind us,” said David.

“I never want to hear from him again.”

The Punch and Judy Professor at the Beachfest said he’s owed about £400 by Mr Preston after putting on eight shows altogether on the Sunday and Monday for children.

“So many acts were not even booked to appear – including the live dinosaurs.

“I knew as soon as I pitched up on the Sunday it was a disaster,” said the Wellingborough-based artist.

“I’ve seen more action at a village fete.

“Incensed stallholders came straight over to me to complain about the shambles,” said the showman.

“He agreed to pay me £200 a day and I’ve never had a penny.

“I saw a whole load of vitriolic Facebook posts from angry visitors over the weekend and I knew it was wrong.

“Michael Preston should have pulled the plug on Beachfest on the Friday night because it was a non-event from start to finish.”

A mum from Desborough is also up in arms after buying £10 tickets for her and her sister to go and see Frankie’s Guys on the Monday night.

“I’d seen them before at the very first drive-in and they were brilliant.

“But I started to get very worried when Facebook literally blew up with incendiary posts from outraged visitors slamming the show.

“I messaged Michael Preston asking him if Frankie’s Guys were going to appear,” said the woman, who asked not to be named.

“He told me they weren’t – and implied they’d pulled out.

“So I tracked down the band’s promoter – who said they’d never even been booked!

“It was an absolute sham.

“Michael Preston persuaded people like me to buy tickets by total misrepresentation.

“I suspect he owes a lot of brassed-off people like me a lot of money.

“It’s completely intolerable – and I will be contacting Trading Standards, the police and his liquidators to demand justice.”

James Webb is the director of Leicestershire’s Agricultural Society, which holds the lease on the 90-acre Showground site.

“Michael Preston owes us about £2,000.

“We agreed that he should give us 10 per cent of his gate receipts for his events,” said James.

“And until the last two or three events, including the Beachfest festival, he’s paid us.

“I went to Beachfest myself and I’d have been ashamed to have put it on, it was that poor.

“We are going to change the locks on the gates at the Showground on Sunday.

“We’re very disappointed – and I feel very sorry for the people of Harborough who’ve lost out.

“We’ll be much more wary now about who we rent out the site to after losing such a lot of money.”

Cllr Phil King, Harborough council’s leader, said: “This is deeply concerning.

“Michael Preston has got many questions to answer about what’s being alleged here.

“The county council’s Trading Standards team will have to launch an investigation so we can understand what’s happened and establish if any offences have been committed.”

He also revealed the council had stopped Mr Preston holding the Leicester’s Big Weekend music show at the Showground on August 14 and 15 on public safety and nuisance grounds.

“Alongside other agencies such as police, fire and the highways authority, we work with event organisers to offer advice and support on what is required by the organiser to make sure any event is run safely and with minimum impact on the surrounding area,” said Cllr King.

“Unfortunately, despite the guidance being very clear, if inadequate information is supplied by the organiser to demonstrate that noise would not cause nuisance and harm to the local community, the event cannot go ahead.”

A Leicestershire Trading Standards spokeswoman said: “We are not aware of the company Fleckney Events, but we have noted the concerns raised and will undertake further enquiries.

“Consumers who wish to make a complaint about the company should report their concerns to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.

“If the tickets cost more than £100 and consumers have paid part of that on a credit card, they have rights under S.75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 to make a claim against the credit card company who are jointly liable,” she said.

“This right is particularly useful if the trader has gone bust - or does not respond to letters or phone calls.”

A Leicestershire Police spokesman urged anyone who suspects they have fallen victim to any kind of fraud to contact the force immediately.

Cardiff-based insolvency practitioners McAlister & Co, which is handling the Fleckney Group’s case, has been asked for a comment.

Earlier this month Mr Preston told the Mail that they did have “a few issues” with the Beachfest fair.

He said he was working flat out to deal with “the fall out” and was battling to “put things right” for fed-up families.

“We had lots of stuff not turning up on the day and half of the fairground was turned away when they arrived on Thursday night.

“We had the donkeys delayed due to being stuck in traffic on the M1 – and artists were dropping out,” said Mr Preston.

“It was horrendous and to try getting replacements at that short notice on a bank holiday weekend was basically impossible!”

Locally-based East Midlands Event Services (EMES) have also been hit hard by the Fleckney Group’s collapse.

Managing Director Conor Robb, 23, said they are owed a “large sum of money” – amounting to almost six figures – by the ill-fated company.

“We are owed many thousands of pounds by the Fleckney Group.

“We have been working with Michael Preston since last October and we’ve been at the Showground since last April,” said Conor, who was based at Tur Langton before moving to Hinckley.

“Our team of five or six people have been providing the cinema screens, on-site power, lighting and video screens as well.

“This is a real kick in the pants after we’ve had such a tough time battling to come through the Covid pandemic.

“I obviously don’t know all the ins and outs – and what’s exactly happened here.

“But it’s left a very bad taste in our mouths after all the hard work we’ve put in helping to stage so many events to be owed so much cash.

“We were getting a lot of complaints ourselves from people very angry about the Beachfest show last month.

“A lot of people went along to the event specially to see the tribute bands.

“And, of course, they were not there and were never going to be there,” said Conor.

“It’s very disappointing that so many people across Harborough have been so badly let down by the Fleckney Group.

“But we are carrying on 100 per cent – and will go from strength to strength.

“We’ve got a lot of work coming up and we’ll put this debacle behind us.

“But it’s been a sharp learning curve.

“We’ll be asking a lot more questions in future of possible customers – as well as checking out their backgrounds and provenance."

A spokeswoman for Cardiff-based insolvency practitioners McAlister & Co said: “We have been instructed to assist in putting the company into liquidation.

“We are currently compiling the information required to prepare the report to creditors and Statement of Affairs.

“Notices will be dispatched to creditors in due course.”