A performing arts competition popular with schools across the Portsmouth are has cancelled its performances for next year – leaving the future of the event uncertain.
Rock Challenge is a nationwide competition of school shows held annually since its first performance in Portsmouth Guildhall in 1996, with more than 4,000 pupils from across the Portsmouth area taking part each year.
Global Rock Challenge, which manages the shows, has cancelled all events across the country in 2020 as it was ‘not prudent’ to go ahead with plans ‘when the budget didn’t balance,’ according to Executive Producer Helen Sjoquist.
She said: ‘We couldn’t ensure that all creditors would be paid.
‘The decision was taken for that reason, not because we didn’t want the events to go ahead.
‘While schools are disappointed, the teachers that have written to me are understanding of the reasons why the Events could not proceed this year.’
Lorraine Hepburn, head of Drama at Mayville High School, said there was 'a real feeling of disbelief’ at the announcement.
She said: ‘Both myself and the school have been involved in Rock Challenge since it started 24 years ago.
‘The children were so disappointed when we told them.
‘We had just started our preparation and there was a real feeling of disbelief.’
The news had left students at special educational needs school Mary Rose Academy ‘absolutely devastated,’ according to Executive Headteacher Alison Beane.
She said: ‘Pupils spend half a day every week preparing for the show.
‘It is something the younger children aspire to as they know when they get to Year 10 they can become involved in the Rock Challenge Group.
‘Children with special educational needs rarely get the opportunity to perform on such a stage.’
Global Rock Challenge, which manages the shows, had faced cancelling this year’s performances after funding partner, Be Your Best Foundation, went into administration in February, but a partnership with the Guildhall Trust in Portsmouth helped to ensure the events went ahead.
Andy Grays, Chief Executive Officer of The Guildhall Trust, said the cancellation means the venue has ‘lost several key dates next year’ and the future of the competition was uncertain.
He said: ‘This is not going ahead because of anything we have done – we feel so passionately about the shows.
‘We discounted our rents this year and offered to do so next year, but we were never given the full financial picture.’
The Trust was hoping the partnership would lead to full management and production responsibility in 2021.
It was ‘too early to say’ whether replacement performances could be arranged for schools next year, according to the chief executive.