Business Hour

For those that don’t know what Skiddle is, it’s the UK’s most popular events and ticketing guide and it’s based right here in Preston, writes Tracy Hargreaves

Whilst most ticketing companies are located in central London, Skiddle’s head office is a farmhouse in Longridge. The brainchild of two ex-student entrepreneurs, Ben Sebborn who went to UCLan and Richard Dyer who was at art college in Carlisle, Skiddle initially started out life as an online what’s on guide.

Ben and Richard identified the need for a guide as they enjoyed going out, but found it difficult to find out what was going on, where. Most other event guides were in print, which meant a lot of the information became out of date quickly. Richard had already been working on an online magazine which was student based and they decided to make it work across the two cities of Preston and Carlisle. By creating a website, listings could be uploaded on line, keeping it current and it soon spread to include other cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and London.

Both Ben and Richard had full time jobs elsewhere, but they could see the amount of interest in events was substantial and in 2006 they had the opportunity to turn that interest round when they had their first breakthrough selling tickets for the Cheshire music festival Creamfields.

“One of the initial problems was we had to accept credit card payments, this often took a while for the money to clear, yet we needed the tickets up front to send to the customer, so there was a delay in paying the organiser for the tickets. We had to have a lot of face to face meetings to build up that trust, but it paid off and we’ve never looked back,” said Ben.

Now aged 34 and 36 years old, Ben and Richard’s ethos has always been to be flexible, different and stay one step ahead of innovation. Where other similar industries have only recently developed a mobile version of their websites, Skiddle’s approach and technology is making sure it stands out from the competition, making ticketing fairer and customer-orientated, so music fans can enjoy the whole experience, from the minute they buy their tickets to the event itself.

Earlier this year a major festival in Liverpool, Hope and Glory was cancelled on the second day after a catalogue of errors. Tickets had been issued by several different ticket companies and there was confusion over refunds, with many fans not receiving their money back. However, Skiddle refunded all its customers to the tune of £80,000 out of its own pocket. “Many companies hide behind their terms and conditions, but for us it’s about our customers coming first and being open and transparent, building our trust and reputation,” said Richard.

“We’ve come a long way from when we were organising and posting out the tickets, ourselves,” says Ben. “We now have a dedicated team of 37 staff who do everything from administration, web development, people dedicated to finding events to add to our listings guides, to make it the most comprehensive festival and events guide in the UK and an in house editorial team, who write articles on events and live stream for those not able to attend.”

Richard adds: “We focus on music, with everything from small independent nights and grassroots events, to festivals with more than a 40,000 capacity. We also work exclusively with some of the top brands across the UK and Europe.”

Ben now lives in Whitechapel and Richard in Garstang and due to the company’s location and their local networking they have also got involved in the agricultural community by helping and supporting local events such as organised Bonfire Nights and the Garstang Show, by showing them how to make their ticketing self-sufficient, secure and efficient. “It’s not something we set out to do, but it’s our way of getting involved in the local community,” added Ben.

As well as ticketing and producing an events guide, Skiddle also raises money for charity. “We had a friend and colleague who sadly died of cancer and was supported enormously by Macmillan Cancer Support, said Ben. “We decided to make Macmillan our checkout charity and so far, we have raised more than £100,000!”

Skiddle has some exciting plans for 2018 including supporting a new three-day festival taking place on 18th, 19th and 20th May in the beautiful surroundings of Williamson Park in Lancaster, where a percentage of the money raised will also go to Macmillan. It aims to be the biggest festival that Lancaster has ever seen.

Not bad for a business that was created by music fans for music fans.



Tedd Walmsley

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