The embattled Royal Croquet Club (RCC) has been granted a five-year licence by the Adelaide City Council to run its Adelaide Fringe hub at Pinky Flat – but it won’t be under the direction of founders Stuart Duckworth and Tom Skipper.
Instead, the event will be run by a new company – 1835 Royal Croquet Club Pty Ltd – under the directorship of Jason Di Iulio and Cibo Espresso co-founder Roberto Cardone. But Duckworth will stay on “in an important way,” Cardone tells Broadsheet. Under the new arrangement, he’ll be employed as creative director.
Cardone says he’s been a “bit of a sounding board” for Duckworth the past six months. “In that time a few things didn’t really go their way and we were always trying to find a way forward.”
Duckworth and Skipper’s events company The Social Creative went into voluntary administration last year after a $1.1 million loss at its 2016 Royal Adelaide Club in China, leaving suppliers and collaborators unpaid, and placing the future of the RCC in doubt.
Last month it was confirmed the event would go ahead in 2018 – and debts would be paid to creditors – thanks to financial support from several unnamed investors. Cardone was one of them.
This week Cardone’s business partner, Di Iulio, threatened to withdraw more than $1 million in funding and cancel the 2018 RCC if the council refused to grant a five-year licence, InDaily reports. Di Iulio issued the warning in a letter to the Adelaide City Council, saying the Adelaide Fringe Festival would suffer a 15 per cent reduction in ticket sales if the RCC did not go ahead.
Cardone wouldn’t comment on the details of the letter, but said the five-year licence was necessary for the financial security of the event. “It’s a really large investment, in excess of $1 million. It was an event that was proven, had a great track record in Adelaide, it was an event that needed to have stability moving forward … and in a business sense, for a return on investment and a bit of safety, that’s what was needed.”
“We just want to get on with the show. This has been a massive effort by a lot of South Australian arts people, government and great people to keep this going.”
Lord Mayor Martin Haese tells Broadsheet all but one councillor voted to renew the RCC for the five-year licence. “We were satisfied that our concerns in terms of financial risk to the city of Adelaide ratepayers were solved,” he says.
“The new operators of the Royal Croquet Club will be paying rent in advance and arranging a bond or guarantee for the parklands remediation costs so that the ratepayers are not exposed.
“We absolutely recognise the value of the Royal Croquet Club, in terms of itself as a destination and venue, and the sheer number of people that visit and enjoy it.
“But we had to look at the concerns of our ratepayers … we had to be diligent in ensuring financially they would not be exposed again. That’s what we’ve done.”
The Royal Croquet Club is due to open on February 16, with around 20 acts scheduled to perform over its four-week run.
Broadsheet contacted Stuart Duckworth for comment but he did not respond before deadline.