Sunday, 19 September 2021

Film festival boss won’t pay debts despite new job

THE organiser of the Henley International Film Festival has a new job —

THE organiser of the Henley International Film Festival has a new job — but says he has no plans to repay the debts created after the event didn’t happen.

The festival, which was due to take place in April last year, was postponed and then cancelled due to poor weather.

It allegedly still owes tens of thousands of pounds to the town council, staff, exhibitors and people who bought tickets.

Founder Richard Truter left the country after claiming he was bankrupt but the Henley Standard can reveal he has been working for a film company in Johannesburg since February.

Speaking from South Africa, he said the festival had nothing to do with his work as a commerical director at Picture Tree.

Mr Truter said: “My priority after picking up myself from bankruptcy is to, first and foremost, feed my family, start to rebuild our lives, overcome our loss and the incredible stress this has all caused and continues to do. Only then can we begin to make offers of compensation.

“For some unbelievable reason, a few individuals are under the insane impression that I left England with thousands to start an extravagant life abroad.

“I’m really sorry to disappoint anybody but that could not be further from the truth.”

Thousands of people were expected to attend the festival featuring films, including Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Fried Green Tomatoes, screened in an inflatable tent and “street food” served by more than 50 international food vendors.

The event was called off with only three days’ notice.

It had already been postponed from November 2011 after Mr Truter said he needed more time to promote it in order to sell tickets.

The event owes Henley Town Council £500, which Mr Truter had agreed to pay as a cancellation charge for the use of Mill Meadows.

Two close aides who worked with him on the inaugural festival in 2010 are claiming they are owed £7,000.

A number of food vendors who paid up to £1,000 in advance for pitch fees also claim they are waiting for refunds, as do some ticket holders who paid £25 each. Mr Truter said he could not refund everyone because the event did not have weather insurance cover.

He said the non-profit event had relied on recovering investment on the day but when it was cancelled he lost his money, home and possessions.

Mr Truter said Picture Tree was “very much aware” of what happened to the film festival.

“They felt it had nothing to do with them and the past is the past and one person cannot be destroyed over something he had no control over,” he said.

Mr Truter, who has three children, said he had regrets over what happened to the festival. He said: “I can assure you my and my family’s loss has been far greater than any company or individual associated with the festival... we lost absolutely everything.

“The film festival went wrong, we were not insured for weather and as a result I lost all my financial investment, time and an enormous amount of energy and no one can deny that.

“For the three years it was my job and my passion and subsequently became my complete downfall and my worst enemy.”

More News:

POLL: Have your say