THE ONLY way artists, crew and suppliers owed money from Doune The Rabbit Hole will get paid is if next year's festival is "successful", one of the event's organisers has told The Herald.

In a frank interview, Craig Murray revealed that this year's festival had only sold 6,000 tickets, far short of the 12,000 they expected to sell. 

He also said he was having sleepless nights over the debts, and insisted there was nothing fraudulent or greedy about the festival's cash flow problems. 

The comments came as an official Doune The Rabbit Hole crowdfunder to help pay off debts was launched on social media last night, before being scrapped after attracting negative attention from people due fees for their work in July. 

Many of the bands and technicians who worked on this year's festival are still waiting to be paid in full. 

Yesterday we revealed that headliners Belle & Sebastian had only been partially paid. 

READ MORE: Unions issue warnings over Doune the Rabbit Hole

Last week the company behind the event, Doune The Rabbit Hole Festival Ltd, announced that they were entering liquidation after suffering “huge financial difficulty”.

However, in a statement, organisers said the festival would return in July next summer under the management of Festival Beverage and Property Services Ltd, who operated the festival in 2018 and 2019.

According to Companies House, Doune The Rabbit Hole Ltd is run by Jamie Murray while Festival Beverage and Property Services Ltd is run by his father, Craig Murray, a blogger and former diplomat who was jailed last year for contempt of court after he was found to have published material capable of identifying four of the women who accused Alex Salmond of sexual assault.

READ MORE: Company behind well-known Scottish outdoor festival enters liquidation

Speaking to The Herald, Craig Murray blamed the money problems on the pandemic. He said the festival's cancellations in 2020 and 2021 because of Covid had resulted in losses of around £500,000. 

In a bid to make that money back in 2022, the organisers, after taking advice, decided to go “bigger” in a bid to sell more tickets. 

“We had a fantastic lineup of Patti Smith, Amy McDonald, Belle and Sebastian,” Mr Murray said. “The lineup was just tremendous and deep. And we were advised by booking agents and people in the industry with that line up we'd sell 12,000 tickets, no problem. 

“But we just didn't. We spent more on marketing than TRSNMT did but we still only sold 6,000 tickets. And that's what happened. 

“We were flummoxed. Until Easter, ticket sales were extremely good. They were 300 per cent up on previous festivals. But once the cost of living crisis hit, they fell off a cliff.”

The Herald: The crowds will flock to Doune the Rabbit Hole once again this summer. Picture courtesy of ReCompose

He said others in the industry had advised that last-minute ticket sales would be strong, but Doune The Rabbit Hole ended up with almost no last-minute tickets. 

“We literally took nothing on the gate,” he said.

“And now we're in this terrible position where we owe all these people money, which we feel awful about. Genuinely, absolutely sleepless nights awful. And if we don't run the festival again, they'll never get paid. There isn't any money.” 

Mr Murray said he already had put his own life savings and his pension into paying some of those due cash.

“We've agreed with the liquidator that the way forward is to run the festival again. Without all that Covid hangover, we believe, and the liquidator believes it can make money and then any profits will be applied to paying the people we owe. 

“But there's no other way of getting any money for the people we owe. My life savings have already gone. 

“I understand why people are angry. Of course, I understand why people are angry. I feel just awful about it.”

He said in the week leading up to the festival, he and the others discussed what they should do. 

All the money from the ticket sales had already gone to artists who had asked for 50% deposits, and to equipment supply firms who had demanded upfront payments. 

“There is no money in the bank to give 6,000 people their money back if we don't go ahead. But if we do go ahead there's a risk we won't make enough money at the bars and stalls and on the gate to pay everyone. How do we do this? What do we do? And the thing was just bloody awful.”

READ MORE: Doune the Rabbit Hole accused of 'insult' over unpaid artists

Mr Murray rejected what he described as an “undercurrent” in some of the recent criticism that suggested criminality or greed. 

The Bectu union’s Scottish Live Events Network accused Doune The Rabbit Hole of “very shady business practices.” 

“It just didn't make enough money,” Mr Murray said. “Nobody has legally or illegally taken the money out. It's just not there.

“I may be many things but I'm not a crook. I'm a very honest individual.”

Mr Murray agreed that trying to make enough money to pay for both the 2022 and 2023 festivals at next year’s event was ambitious. 

“In 2022 we sold more tickets than in 2019 and in 2019 we sold more tickets than in 2018. If it wasn't for those two Covid cancellations we wouldn't be in this position. 

“So, I accept it is ambitious but we've got to make it work. The only other way is to walk away and just leave all this money owed. 

“We have to make it work. Now Covid is behind us, I think we've got a good fighting chance of making it work but people drumming the festival down doesn't help. 

“The people who came to it all had a wonderful time. It was an artistic and popular success of the first order. It was extremely good. But we need to get everyone working together with the realisation that the only way the people owed are going to get paid is by making the festival successful.”

Last night, the festival took to social media to launch a crowdfunder asking for supporters to help. 

"We appreciate that many of you have already paid for your festival experience, but some of you may have come as a guest or on a discounted ticket which you may feel you could top up. Please consider donating regardless."

They said if everyone who attended "donated the cost of a night out at a gig, everyone would receive full payment by the New Year. "

The post was deleted shortly after, and replaced by another which said: "We have removed our last post. We realise it was doing more damage than good despite our best intentions."

The Herald:

Honeyblood's Stina Tweeddale - who is also one of the acts still waiting on payment - yesterday also set up a crowdfunder.

She said it could help give some of those out of pocket “a little cushion just in time for Christmas."

One of the acts who did get paid for last year's event were the Kinnaris Quintet. But Aileen Reid from the group said it had been a struggle. 

She questioned the festival's decision to book over 200 acts "when there was a negative bank balance to start with."

"Yes, you need dreamers to take the leap into the unknown and go for it with putting on a festival, but there are ways to do things, and these bucks absolutely f****d it for themselves and so, so, so many people - people who were already in a pretty desperate and vulnerable place with work, income, and belief in persevering with the music and arts industries."