Fans demanding refunds after Kultureland, other local festivals spiral into chaos over the weekend

Kultureland Festival was set to be a weekend celebration at the Markham Fairgrounds but it got moved on Sunday.
Kultureland Festival was set to be a weekend celebration at the Markham Fairgrounds but it got moved on Sunday.

Kultureland Festival, the Kingston Music Festival in North York and the Boots and Hearts Festival outside Barrie, faced a number of unforeseen circumstances this weekend, including changed venues, dropped acts and severe weather, with calls from some fans to issue refunds.

Billed as “Canada’s biggest Afro-fusion weekend,” Kultureland Festival was set to be a weekend celebration of music, food and exclusive merchandise at the Markham Fairgrounds.

But fans in attendance were less than pleased after the venue was changed last minute on Sunday and a string of artists cancelled. Fans were also upset at what they called sub-optimal conditions on the grounds of the festival.

The two-day festival advertised acclaimed Nigerian singer Burna Boy as one of several headliners.

Jhené Aiko, who was scheduled to close the two-day event, pulled out after the festival was moved. The festival also told fans StoneBwoy, Fireboy DML, Lojay and Kamo Mphela would not be able to perform on Sunday.

In addition to cancelled acts, the festival switched venues at the last minute for its second day of programming, moving attendees from the Markham Fairgrounds to the Ajax Downs, about 30-minutes away. The start time of the show was also moved two hours.

Tickets ranged from just under $200 for pre-sale, general admission seats to over $400 for two-day VIP packages.

Kultureland released a statement Monday evening, blaming a delayed soundcheck, unexpected heatwave and staff shortages for the problems on day one.

With a last-minute venue change on day two, Kultureland said “artists were prepared to perform but we were unable to get them the equipment they needed to perform at the new venue.”

In the statement they took “full responsibility” for failing to update festival attendees that several artists were not able to attend “due to ongoing visa and routing issues.”

“We want to reassure all ticket-holders for the second day that they will be refunded in full as we did not fulfill our commitment to you,” said the statement.

Ferell Laditi of Code R.E.D Entertainment, one of Kultureland’s organizers, spoke to the Star on Monday, hoping to “clear the air” on what had happened over the weekend.

The venue change was due to a “number of issues,” said Laditi.

“We didn’t see eye to eye with the venue on several issues, including security for the event,” said Laditi. “I had to make the executive decision to cancel or move the show — moving like that at the last minute is almost impossible, especially in that short a period of time. But I felt bad, and I wanted to make sure we could still have a show, even if it wasn’t in the original venue. The artists were here and ready to perform. They understood. They still wanted to perform.”

“We can take responsibility for the staffing,” said Laditi. “We’re a first-year festival, and we miscalculated how many staff we’d need. It wasn’t intentional, and we sincerely apologize for that.”

Laditi said every artist who had been contracted and marketed as being part of the festival had been fully compensated, contrary to rumours on social media.

“They had every intention to perform. But some of the performers just couldn’t get their visas in time.”

Attendees also tweeted that that the Kultureland VIP experience was underwhelming — the physical barrier between general admission and VIP seating reportedly broke just minutes into the festival, rendering the more expensive tickets effectively pointless.

“That was something else we couldn’t see eye to eye on with the venue,” said Laditi.

“We’ll be refunding people who had tickets for the Sunday. We know people came from far and wide for the show. I sincerely apologize for anything that happened on Sunday. Our vision for Kultureland was an environment where communities and cultures could come together,” he said.

“I want to express my sincere apologies.”

Attendees at the Kingston Music Festival in North York also experienced issues of their own this weekend, including another compromised VIP barrier.

Videos were posted of concertgoers rushing toward the stage after pushing down the fence separating general admission and VIP sections.

Jamaican musician Popcaan used his set to criticize event organizers.

Boots and Hearts Festival in Oro-Medonte faced issues of its own this weekend due to downpours reported throughout Simcoe County. The festival grounds re-opened late Sunday night.

Fans, some who travelled from far distances to attend the Kultureland Festival, took to social media to complain, voicing frustration about the lack of transparency from the festival and demanding refunds, comparing the event to the ill-fated Fyre Festival of 2017.

With files from the Canadian Press

Aisling Murphy is a reporter for the Star’s radio room based in Toronto. Reach her via email:


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