31 Jan 2004

Daniel Keighley on Musical Chairs

From RNZ Music, 3:30 pm on 31 January 2004

Daniel Keighley was a man who - in the words of a Dave Dobbyn song "muddied up the river panning for gold and dreams". Reactions among out-of-pocket creditors ranged from sadness to anger when Sweetwaters Music Festival director, Keighley served a 12-month prison sentence after the failed concert of 1999. Right or wrong, Keighley was a character, and in Musical Chairs Daniel Keighley outlines his professional involvement with the music industry, the history of Sweetwaters, and what really happened.

The promoter of the Sweetwaters Music Festival, Daniel Keighley, died of cancer at the age of 63 in 2015.

Sweetwaters Festival 1980

Sweetwaters Festival 1980 Photo: CC BY 3.0 Sweetas

Watch a Radio With Pictures video about Sweetwaters 1980 on NZonScreen

Keighley has been praised for his many good works, including his involvement as event manager for the Parihaka International Peace Festival in Taranaki and his work as elected chair of Access Radio Stations of Aotearoa in 2013.

Daniel Keighley celebrating the Parihaka Peace Festival.

Daniel Keighley celebrating the Parihaka Peace Festival. Photo: Facebook

Keighley also managed bands such as the Muttonbirds - including during their time in the UK - and guitarist Andrew White.

Some, however, will remember him for the financial disaster surrounding the 1999 Sweetwaters festival comeback.

Mr Keighley was a director of five of the Sweetwaters music festivals, which were held at Ngaruawahia and Pukekawa between 1980 and 1984.

But an attempt to bring the festival back in 1999 failed financially. It left Keighley bankrupt and owing about $2.7 million. He was ultimately jailed for fraud in 2000.

The 1999 festival was billed as the biggest of its kind ever held in New Zealand and featured world renowned artists such as Elvis Costello, Amazing Rythym Aces, UB40, Men at Work, the Stranglers and Donovan.

It was reportedly extremely well organised and an attempt at a more sophisticated, less alcohol-soaked festival, aimed at an older demographic. But in the end the numbers didn't stack up and many creditors were left out of pocket.

Keighley's book Sweetwaters: The Untold Story, was published in 2005. As well as detailing what went wrong with the festival, it covers his life in the music business and the behind-the-scenes battles at the festivals.

Listen to Trevor Reekie talking to Daniel Keighley about his side of the Sweetwaters saga ( 11 min 51 sec )

Long time friend Radio New Zealand music producer Trevor Reekie, said although the last festival turned out to be a fiasco, it would be a shame if Keighley was remembered for that as he had a lot of other notable achievements.

"He was a guy who had a heart of gold," he said. "He was generally a benefactor in many ways. He was a family man who was committed to a lot of good causes."

Mr Reekie said Keighley was well respected among New Zealand's music fraternity.

"He was an extraordinarily kind man, an exceptionally good friend, and I admired him a lot."

Trevor Reekie interviewed Daniel Keighley for the New Zealand Music profile series Musical Chairs in 2004:

Sweetwaters Festivals

  • 1980 - Sweetwaters – Festival of Music, Culture and Technology – 26 to 28 January, Ngaruawahia, near Waipa River.
    John Martyn / Elvis Costello / Renee Geyer / Split Enz / Mi-sex
  • 1981 - Sweetwaters – 24 to 26 January, Ngaruawahia
    Roxy Music / Split Enz (True Colours) / Cold Chisel
  • 1982 - Sweetwaters – 29 to 31 January and 1 February, Pukekawa
    Ultravox / Meatloaf / Cold Chisel / The Angels / Mental As Anything / Men At Work
  • 1983 - Sweetwaters – 28 to 31 January, Pukekawa
    Psychedelic Furs / UB40 / Toots and The Maytals / Tom Robinson Band / Taj Mahal
  • 1984 - Sweetwaters North – 3, 4, 5 February, Pukekawa
    Eurythmics / Jo Boxers / Pretenders / Simple Minds / Talking Heads
  • 1984 - Sweetwaters South – 6 February QE2 Park, Christchurch
    Talking Heads / Pretenders
  • 1999 - Sweetwaters – 23 to 26 January, Puhinui Reserve, Manukau
    Elvis Costello / UB40 / Pere Ubu / Finn Brothers

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