Festival Cancels R. Kelly’s Headlining Appearance After Community Backlash
By Shannon Carlin
The inaugural festival, which is the first fest to combine music and fashion, and will take place over Labor Day weekend, along with Kelly released a joint statement yesterday (July 28) saying they had come to a “mutual decision to cancel Kelly’s upcoming performance.”
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Questions of Kelly’s booking arose last week after the local folk-rock band Saintseneca announced they would be withdrawing from the festival, according to the website, Columbus Alive. On Monday, local radio station WCBE 90.5 FM also announced it would be ending its sponsorship of the event. Both cited Kelly’s history of sexual violence as their reason for parting with the fest. Kelly was acquitted on charges of making child pornography in 2008.
The festival’s communications director told Columbus Alive that organizers decided to part ways with Kelly on Friday, July 25 following a month of “internal conversation” that actually began when the local duo, Damn the Witch Siren raised concerns and eventually took themselves off the bill, the first band to do so.
“There was a lot of back and forth on the criticism we did receive, but then also looking at [Kelly] as an artist,” she said. “Then truly the last few weeks … the festival has taken a lot of heat, and we really just wanted to listen to Columbus and really take a stance and move forward.”
Kelly’s publicist released a statement apologizing to fans: “R. Kelly is sorry to disappoint his fans, but looks forward to seeing them in the near future during one of his upcoming tours.”
The festival says they will not replace Kelly on the bill and will go on as planned with headliners like O.A.R., Michelle Williams and Local Natives. There has also been no word on whether the festival will invite Furthermore, Damn the Witch Siren or Saintseneca to rejoin the bill.