Vince Power, concert and festival promoter, dies aged 76

<span>Vince Power pictured in 2015.</span><span>Photograph: Martin Argles/The Guardian</span>
Vince Power pictured in 2015.Photograph: Martin Argles/The Guardian

Vince Power, the concert promoter who helmed festivals such as Reading and Leeds, has died aged 76.

His death was confirmed in a statement from his family, who called him “a visionary entrepreneur who enhanced and influenced the music industry significantly, whilst always being a dedicated, loving father and a loyal friend to so many”.

Born John Vincent Power in Waterford in 1947, Power was a champion of music from his native Ireland after moving to London in his mid-teens. He opened the venue the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden in 1982, funded from a successful secondhand furniture business he’d built up over the previous two decades. It hosted Irish folk music and country and western, and grew in stature, attracting the likes of Eric Clapton, Annie Lennox and Roy Orbison.

What started as a hobbyist business became a huge success for Power, whose company Mean Fiddler Group took on ownership of a swathe of London venues including the Jazz Cafe, the Garage and the Astoria.

In 1989 he took on the imperilled Reading festival, and added the second Leeds festival location in 1999. He survived a scare with an expensive gig at Ireland’s Tramore racecourse in 1993 which hosted Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Ray Charles and Jerry Lee Lewis but left him £2.5m in debt – “I could have bought most of the town with what I lost,” he later said – but launched Phoenix festival in 1993 to champion the richness of the decade’s alternative music, with the 1996 edition hosting David Bowie, Neil Young, Björk and the reformed Sex Pistols. His Fleadh events, including in London’s Finsbury Park, brought together the cream of Irish rock and folk.

After some faltering attempts, Mean Fiddler was floated on the stock market, and took a stake in Glastonbury festival in 2002 (which was later bought back in 2012). Power sold his share of the company in 2004, and set up another business, Vince Power Music Group, which founded the Hop Farm festival and ran it between 2008 and 2012. Power secured the likes of Prince, Eagles and Bob Dylan for headline sets, but it ended up operating at a loss. “I put it on and lost a fortune. But anyway, it was a great night,” he later said of the Prince show. Artists at the 2012 event, as well as Kent police, were left out of pocket by the collapse of the festival.

In 2014, Power was temporarily banned from promoting live music by London’s high court after he was found to have been running Hop Farm without a performing rights licence.

He also took ownership of Festival Internacional de Benicàssim in Spain in 2005, but sold his majority share in 2013 as that festival also struggled. An attempt to return to the festival market in 2019 with Feis Liverpool failed, but Power later purchased a series of London venues including the historic Dingwalls.

In 2006 he was made an honorary CBE. Power said: “It’s a nice recognition even though a lot of people are more deserving of it. But I am very happy and proud.”

Imelda May was among those paying tribute following his death, writing: “I adored him and will be forever grateful to him for giving me a chance when I needed it most when starting out.” Tanita Tikaram described Power as “the kindest of men & like many artists I owe so much to Vince”.

He is survived by his eight children.