Organisers respond to backlash over Tom Meighan being booked to headline Sheffield festival

Organisers have defended their decision to book Tom Meighan as the headline act for a Sheffield festival, following his domestic abuse conviction in 2020.

The former Kasabian frontman was announced over the weekend to be performing at this year’s Be Reyt Festival – which will take place in Sheffield on May 6. However, the decision has sparked backlash from a number of acts and artists, with an online campaign to boycott the festival reportedly been launched.

Meighan was convicted of abusing his partner, Vikki Ager, in 2020 and sentenced at Leicester Magistrates Court to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty.

Around the time of the conviction, he parted ways with Kasabian – the chart-topping band he co-founded in 1997 – and explained that he had struggled “for many years with alcohol addiction” as well as seeing the events as a “wake-up call”. He and Ager went on to be married, with Meighan diagnosed with ADHD and saying that he was “deeply ashamed” of his abusive actions.

Tom Meighan
Tom Meighan. CREDIT: Gus Stewart/Redferns

Now, three years on, Meighan – having launched his solo career – has been booked as the headline act for Sheffield’s Be Reyt festival, in a decision that the organisers deemed a “second chance”. The store and venue Record Junkee along with festival organisers Network issued a statement, explaining why they booked Meighan as a headline act, and encouraged fans to support the artist as he is “working hard to better himself”.

While speaking of their dedication to supporting multiple genres, subcultures, backgrounds and the LGBTQ+ community within Sheffield, they wrote that “equally important to us is mental health”.

“With this in mind we agreed to make Tom Meighan our headline act for Be Reyt a co-promoted music event with Away Days (A Festival dedicated to showcasing the best upcoming indie acts),” they said. “Tom Meighan has suffered in the past with publicised mental health issues and admitted to allegations of abuse towards his partner, which contributed to him stepping down from his role as the singer and frontman of Kasabian.”

They continued: “In no way do our companies believe domestic abuse or abuse of any type is acceptable. Nobody should have to suffer any type of abuse.

“However, we do believe that people deserve a second chance. Tom has been to rehab and is now married to Vikki Ager. He’s been confirmed for several festivals up and down the country including Sheffield, supporting acts such as Noel Gallagher and Razorlight, whilst also headlining his own shows at O2 Academies.”

They continued: “It has been brought to our attention that there is a campaign online asking people to boycott our venue because of Tom’s presence. We do not accept that Tom should be cast out from the music community after working hard to better himself. We only ask for the same understanding that is given to the numerous venues across the country that allow him to perform either as a support act or a headline act.

“We will continue to support a diverse range of acts and styles as we have always done and we look forward to welcoming you to our venue for this event and many more events to come.”

STATEMENT REGARDING TOM MEIGHAN AND BE REYT FESTIVALNetwork and Record Junkee is a small family run independent…

Posted by Record Junkee on Tuesday, April 11, 2023

However, many are outraged at the decision to book Meighan – with a number of acts pulling out of the festival.

“The festival organisers defend their decision based on giving Meighan a ‘second chance’ … We disagree,” said a spokesperson from domestic abuse charity IDAS.

“In choosing to headline a convicted abuser, the festival risks sending a message to music lovers that abuse is ‘not that bad’, that it is somehow excusable. This decision could reinforce their abuser’s behaviour and prevent survivors from getting help. There are many incredible performers out there that could have headlined the festival instead.”

Non-profit organisation Sheffield Women’s Aid also spoke out against the booking, and suggested that the decision encourages people to overlook domestic abuse if the perpetrator has a “position of status”.

“[We] consider that art cannot be separated from the artist,” they said (via Now Then).

They continued: “Sheffield Women’s Aid also consider that art cannot be separated from the artist, and Meighan’s conviction for domestic abuse would send a completely inappropriate message to survivors that this can be overlooked if you have a position of status or celebrated talent in some way – domestic abuse survivors trauma is paramount and they, not Meighan should be the focus.

“We would argue it is not possible to platform Meighan without acknowledging the convictions in his treatment of women.”

Tom Meighan
Tom Meighan. CREDIT: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Among the acts to have pulled out of the line-up for Be Reyt are Trampolene.

“Due to the convictions of the headlining act, we as a band do not feel it is right performing at the Be Rest Festival on the 6th May in Sheffield,” they wrote on Instagram. “We apologise to our fans and hope they understand our reasons for not doing the show.”

See statements from other artists removing themselves from the bill below.

Last year, Meighan accused Kasabian of trying to silence him during his time in the band.

“I felt like I was being watched. Serge was edging and edging to be the frontman for a long time. I was basically put in a cage and let out and then put back in again. Very, very egotistic leader,” he said.

“They were basically signing me out of the band before, a few years ago,” he continued. “They tried to gag me so I wouldn’t talk and give me a bit of money to shut my mouth so I could never talk about the band again.”

Meighan is currently in the midst of a UK headline tour ahead of releasing his debut solo album, with a support slot for Noel Gallagher this summer among his upcoming shows.

Last year saw Kasabian release their first album without Meighan, ‘The Alchemist’s Euphoria’ – with guitarist and songwriter Serge Pizzorno assuming frontman duties.

For help, support and advice regarding domestic abuse, visit Refuge here or call the freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

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