A Sad State of Affairs

Problem

Following an investigation which has run for over a month, we are unhappy to report that there seem to be deep and long standing problems with George Gunby’s financial conduct.

For those who are unaware of who George Gunby is, he is involved with many community projects. He is a writer who puts on the Belper Passion, he founded and led the Belper Arts Festival, was a co-founder of Derwent Valley on Demand, has been a regular writer for Nailed, was part of Belper in Wartime, fundraised for Sacrifice, has co-managed some musical talent, and puts on many local music and theatre events. He is often involved in many of Belper’s large events and entertainment projects, if not in charge of them. He has been an important and highly valued part of the fabric of Belper. He has been trusted by many.

The most immediate problem, which is the one which brought the problem to our attention, is that a large proportion of the money which Belper people paid, to fund Andy Mayer’s award winning and beloved Sacrifice monument, is missing and large bills are still unpaid.

Sacrifice did not have a group of its own to manage its finances. It was assumed, by most people, that it fell under the control of Belper in Wartime, because they were involved in fundraising for it.  But Belper in Wartime did not manage the finances for it. George collected the money, and has confessed to using £8000 of that money, allegedly to prop up Belper Arts Festival, although this has not been evidenced.

But this was just the tip of the iceberg.

The first piece of the puzzle to come to light was the concerts which George put on with Paul Terry. Paul had not been paid what he was owed for his work, and he was concerned about performers who had not been paid. After months of trying to get fees paid to Margaret Keys and Sergei Podobedov, Paul was informed by Andy that Sacrifice bills were still unpaid, but neither were yet aware of the extent of the problems. Paul contacted Nailed at this point.

Since then many other problems have been uncovered. These problems affected Belper Arts Festival, Belper in Wartime, Live and Local, Belper Goes Green, and individuals.

Andy Mayers, Kelly Nixon, Suzanne Parnell, Paul Terry, and Adrian Farmer met with this journalist (Clare Washbrook) to try to clarify the matter and decide on further courses of action. Following that meeting, Paul Terry, Suzanne Parnell and Kelly Nixon went to the police to report the matter together.

The police spoke with the complainants separately, and decided that as there was no individual private citizen who was a victim of fraud, they would not investigate. Basically they didn’t view community groups or the community itself, as a victim. That left Nailed to bear the burden of further investigation and of informing you, the Belper public as soon as possible.

The intended publication date for this article was Thursday 14th November. This became extended due to additional information becoming known, which needed to be included. The expansion of George’s impact zone is ongoing and we anticipate more stories arising after publication.

Known Missing Money and Unpaid Debts

£8000 of money raised for Sacrifice 2014-2019 (£11,000 raised by community)
£15,500 unaccounted for from ticket sales for Belper Arts Festival up to 2018
£900 owed to St. Peter’s church
£580 owed to Sergei Podobedov and Paul Terry for concerts
£400 owed to Margaret Keys for a concert
£3000 (estimate on full ticket price) ticket sales from Belper Arts Festival’s The Bohemians concert (partly with Derby Live, which George has control of)
£600 secret loan from Gary Spendlove for Derwent Valley on Demand – £1000 loan, £400 repaid

Total missing money known so far: £28,980

When this journalist shared the investigation with the Nailed editors team, other local knowledge threw up a couple of older issues, which we followed up on and confirmed.

Known Historic Problems

In 2014, George requested a marquee to use at Belper Goes Green, and agreed to pay for it. When the original Belper Goes Green team tried to finalise their accounts to move on to the next year and have their bills paid, George Gunby repeatedly delayed payment. These delays lasted for 9 months, before Belper Goes Green finally got paid in full.

The marque cost £631.55. Belper Goes Green happens in May. They were paid in 2 installments, the first to the festival’s JustGiving account in January 2015 and the second in cash at a meeting at Fresh Ground on 2nd February 2015.

George Gunby joined Dick Watson in arranging some Live and Local events. George added an unagreed fee to an event he was co-organising with Dick for Live and Local, to include that event in the Belper Arts Festival brochure. Dick paid this fee. Then there was the issue around an event at a school. George and Dick knew that the event would make a loss and agreed to share the cost of the potential loss. After the event, George left Dick to bear the cost alone, and avoided responsibility.

Tallied Issues

Unpaid fees to venues and entertainers have been chased multiple times, and deductions have been given to George, either beforehand or just to get him to pay. The invoices are still unpaid.

The Bohemians – this is the large Queen tribute concert arranged for May 2020’s Belper Arts Festival at St. Peter’s Church. It has been publicised with Belper Arts Festival branding and payment option. George has refused to give this event up, possibly because it involves large amounts of money. The Bohemians do not want to work with George Gunby anymore but have asked the new Belper Arts Festival committee to take it over. The Bohemians have invoiced George for the ticket money already collected by themselves, which they delivered to George. The new committee have decided that the tickets and the good will of the local band should be honoured and are taking action to try to reclaim this event. The money from tickets bought through Derby Live is held by Derby Live until May in case refunds are required. Many tickets were sold for cash, and this money is in George’s hands. There are tickets still to be sold, and the money raised from those tickets, plus the Derby Live refund reserve, may cover the unpaid bills of the event, but the profit would be mostly lost to the new group with recouping ticket money from George Gunby. George still has control of the Belper Arts Festival Ltd. account with Derby Live. The new committee will issue an update and details on their progress in due course.

That secret loan from Gary Spendlove was not secret on Mr. Spendlove’s part. The secrecy comes in the fact that George never told anyone about it. Andy Mayers and James Oldrini, who did all the work for Derwent Valley on Demand had never heard about it and it never went into the project with the money they invested. We have not been able to speak to Gary Spendlove before publication as this came to our attention the night before publication, but these figures of £1000 loan, with £600 overdue, were reported to Paul Terry and then to us by Paul on 18th November.

We do not know if George obtained other monies which nobody else knew about. He applied for grants alone and makes arrangements with people alone. Without other parties, businesses, grant awarding bodies, and councils coming forwards we can’t know what money was put in, or where it went.

Belper Town Council was informed of the situation by Nailed, and separate to that report, was asked for confirmation and clarification of an agreement to pay for part of the groundworks for Sacrifice, which are still incomplete and unpaid. We asked to know how much had been agreed, whether that money had been paid out, and whether they had paid it to the contractors or to George. The council refused to provide this information, and refused to give a reason for that refusal. We have no other information on which to assess the refusal to provide information which should be public, at a point when the public needs it.

George suddenly announced a flood relief concert shortly after he knew he would be pressured to pay monies owed. He cited a partnership with Foundation Derbyshire in Milford. Foundation Derbyshire knew nothing about this concert. He did include a direct link for donations on the poster. It is, however, permissible for people to run events to fundraise for Foundation Derbyshire and then donate a percentage of the money raised.   This may have been the intention but St. Peter’s church has, upon being made aware of the situation, cancelled the use of St. Peter’s. In announcing the cancellation, George cited a clash with an existing flood relief concert, which takes places over 2 weeks later.

Selling assets – in his statement to Nailed, which is largely a duplication of the apology sent to some parties on Tuesday night, he mentions actions to recover the money he has taken from Sacrifice. Included in this is the intention to sell assets. He has specifically and aggressively pursued Paul Terry about a piano which George and Paul jointly purchased for Sergei Podobedov, as his personal managers. George is demanding that Paul pay the half that George originally paid, £550, under threat of George repossessing the piano from Strutt’s so that he can sell it. This has caused the destitute pianist a great deal of stress and worry.

Reaction to Investigation

We have been told that George was informed of our investigation before we asked to speak with him. Having known George, and having been associated with him (non-financially) through Nailed, our unproductive partnership with Derwent Valley on Demand, and through promotion of events, we hoped that we would be able to talk frankly with him, as he is fully aware that we don’t run tabloid headlines, and don’t demonise members of the community, and he was reminded of this.

This was not to be the case. George was rude, curt, controlling and obstructive. In trying to arrange a meeting he sought to exert power over the proceedings, which we denied. He agreed meetings and then promptly cancelled them. This happened 4 times. He then changed tone and communicated more like the George we know, but in doing so was asking for something we had already repeatedly refused, and refused immediately before the change in tone – a delay to us publishing. The only thing now on offer was an “off the record” meeting, in return for delaying publishing until after we had spoken to him. Nailed had made 2 entire days free during a very busy time to speak to George before we published, he cancelled meetings on both days.

We can’t use any information from an off the record talk. Such talks tell us how a person wants to be perceived, or tell us information we cannot include in our report.

For authorities, like councils or emergency services, these can be very useful, to tell us to be aware of something important coming up, that we need to be aware of in our reporting of other matters, but which cannot be revealed to the public yet. We take “off the record” very seriously. It is crucial to respect what is official and what is not, and we don’t report on verbal slip ups and casual conversations. It is necessary for trust of Nailed, and for our relationships with people we regularly communicate with professionally and personally.

George is not an authority. George wasn’t telling a friend something juicy, and then remembering they’re a journalist. In this case, it was determined that this was not helpful to us at all. We needed George to account for where the money had gone, on the record. We needed him to give us an explanation, for the community to hear. And to provide evidence that he was telling the truth.

We also ran the risk of another cancellation we cannot afford, during organisation of election coverage. We denied the delay, but we did agree to the meeting and suggested a time and place. We haven’t heard from George since.

After the first cancelled meeting, this journalist implored George to “take the opportunity to tell me your perspective, and account for what has happened. You really want to take the chance to include an apology.”

That night George emailed an apology to people involved in Sacrifice and Belper Arts Festival. These emails were forwarded to Nailed by recipients. After the cancellation of a meeting on Wednesday 13th George sent a version of the same message to Nailed, as a “statement”. This statement is also a confession in regards to Sacrifice.

George Gunby’s Statement -13th November 2019

“I have let a substantial number of people down which I deeply regret.

This statement is by the way of an apology, although an apology is hardly enough.

It would be easy to use situations that occurred to share responsibility with others with for the issue. I blame no one else. The decisions made were my choice.

During the past two years Belper Arts Festival has struggled financially for a number of reasons.

However my apology relates to the fact that I used some of the money raised for Sacrifice to offset Belper Arts Festival expenses. The sum was £8000, over two years.

At this point I have to stress that none of the Sacrifice funds have gone into my pocket or anyone personally connected to me. The money was used to offset such things as losses on concerts and community events that I had agreed to sponsor via the Festival.

I am taking steps to rectify the situation as quickly as personal. I am in the process of raising funds, disposing of assets and recovering monies owed to BAF Ltd. to cover the shortfall and ensure that Sacrifice is fully paid for.

Despite this I am ashamed that I let everyone down. It has been said to me that I did the wrong thing for the right reasons. That is one view. Passion for the Arts Festival overtook common sense. I should have let the Arts Festival crash and burn in early 2018. I didn’t and now I have to apologise for my stupidity and my actions and rectify the situation.

I have resigned as Chair / Committee Member of the new Belper Arts Festival. In fact I have no connection whatsoever with Belper Arts Festival. After eight years, that is painful but it is the right thing to do. I would urge everyone to get behind the new Management Committee and make BAF 2020 a roaring success.

Once again, my sincerest apologies to everyone and please be assured that I will rectify the situation sooner rather than later.”

The festival does not have a specific starting budget which needs to be refilled. Losses are losses, and aren’t offset. The money was taken to pay for specific things. We don’t know what those things are. We don’t know if it was a past show, a future show, or rent. No evidence or accounts are provided.

The raising of funds is, partly, a loan, from Zopa, a high interest online loan company, which has never materialised, despite being given weeks to offer evidence of it. We are not sure how it would be paid back, with no guaranteed source of income besides a pension.

Resignation

George had resigned from Belper Arts Festival on 7th November when Paul Terry acted to protect the festival from George’s continued interference. He was due to be removed as chair of the new committee at the next meeting. The new committee had been organised by Paul Terry, to ensure that there would be oversight, shared responsibility and a multi-signatory bank account for the Arts Festival going forwards. By this point more was known, and it was decided that George could not be involved at all. Nailed was informed that he was to be removed before George sent his resignation letter.

George did previously resign in 2017 and then ignored his own resignation.

This will not be the case this time.

Financial Set-up

Belper Arts Festival’s original treasurer, Suzanne Parnell, revealed that the normal operation for Belper Arts Festival was for money to go into the official community account, and then be transferred to a personal account, on production of a personal receipt in the name of Kathleen Gunby, by George Gunby. George then handled how the money was spent.

Suzanne, Kelly Nixon, and other committee members, accepted this at first but Kelly and Suzanne became increasingly suspicious of George’s financial dealings over their time in BAF, and in 2018, when George did not account for an estimated £15,500 in ticket sales, and could produce no real accounts, they resigned, and stated that they wished to have an audit of the BAF community account.

They quietly separated their own creation, the Belper Arts Trail, from the Festival and did not include George Gunby in their official explanation due to being alone in their challenging and because they couldn’t prove that he had done something specific. What they had was a hole where a huge amount of money should be. Nailed has examined the accounts and Treasurer’s report (which were assessed by an accountant) confirming this. George has provided no explanations.  George is seeking a 2nd audit, and Suzanne welcomes the evidence of what has happened to this money.

When Kelly and Suzanne left, they closed the bank account in question, and transferred the remainder of the money to George (£279), which he returned, upon request, to pay for the audit. Belper Arts Festival was made into a Ltd. Company in 2018, with George as the sole director.

There is no bank account for Belper Arts Festival Ltd. No real accounts have been produced to anyone involved with any part of the organisation of the festival, although some appear to be being cobbled together after the fact, due to scrutiny. These partial accounts, viewed by those trying to sort out Sacrifice, are reported to include double invoicing, which artificially increases outgoings to reduce money due.

George does not appear to have a personal current account. We do not know why. We ran checks through Companies House and the government’s insolvency register, and found no insolvency in his name. Although it must be noted that the insolvency records do not list historical insolvency, only current, or with the period of insolvency ended within the last 3 months.

George runs everything through his wife’s bank account, and a high interest online-only Cash Plus account designed for debtors who cannot get a current account, and a Paypal account in his wife’s name, which we believe is set up as a personal account instead of a business account which sells tickets. This is confirmed by multiple sources including past and present Treasurers of Belper Arts Festival, who spoke to Nailed but not to each other.

One reason for using a personal Paypal account is that the money can be instantly withdrawn on a personal account, but sales accounts hold money back for refunds. If money had been held back for refunds, money would be accounted for, and available. George would be able to present these accounts and monies. He has not. If correct (because we cannot look at the inside of this account), this contravenes Paypal’s terms and conditions. We do not know whether Kathleen Gunby is aware of any of this. George also uses his wife’s name for email and Facebook.

Behaviours and Patterns Revealed by Investigation

During our investigation, a lot of repeated behaviours became apparent. Everyone we spoke to had similar stories, and the ways in which George behaved when asked for money owed was a pattern which was told over and over. This behaviour is the observation of this reporter from the sources of: historical reports, being privy to multiple ongoing disputes, and George’s communication on the issue with Nailed.

Delays – when asked to account for anything George will delay this until he cannot delay any more.

Cancellations – When out of time and facing repercussions, George will arrange meetings and then cancel them. Repeatedly.

Inarguable Excuses – For delays and cancellations he will give a reason which is extreme and impossible to argue with.

Fabricating debts owed to him – when faced with a debt to pay, George converts previous generosity and collaboration into a debt owed to him, either in a fee, or in saying that unwritten agreements are now different than agreed. He takes back his voluntary part in it, and with no prior mention of fees, creates charges due to him.

Rewriting history/disregard for others – When he has decided that someone has become a problem for him, he changes the story to word himself as the victim and tries to turn people against people who have called him out. This was reported from separate people who had not been in communication with each other, before Nailed experienced a similar attempt to sow distrust in his favour.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul – George admits to doing this twice, or rather, in two periods over the course of 2 years. We suspect, from the evidence presented here, that this is his usual mode of operation.

George has told people several times that “the money’s safe – it’s in a different account.” One of these different accounts was supposed to be a high interest account, which contained the Sacrifice money. This has, by admission of misappropriation of the same money, been shown to be untrue. George has now told Belper Arts Festival committee members that The Bohemians’ concert money is in a different account, and is safe. No evidence has been produced for this.

The Groups Are Not To Blame

The groups who have been affected have all worked very hard to separate their activities and the groups themselves from George Gunby. They have been unreservedly co-operative with Nailed’s investigation. Some have gone to the police to report the situation as possibly criminal, and regardless of what money has been spent on, fraud.

Suzanne Parnell issued an official final Treasurer’s report in July 2019, following an account audit. This report, covering January 2015 to September 2018, detailed the unaccounted for money, the suspicious financial conduct, and attached all necessary documents which revealed the unaccounted for funds estimated at £15,500, as well as the official accounts from Hub 3 Chartered Accountants. The report detailed that information on 4 grants from Futures Homescape and Nottingham University has not been provided by George. That receipts and evidence of ticket distribution and sales were not submitted by George, and that this ticket money was never deposited in the Belper Arts Festival community account. This report is the first official report of George conducting business through his wife’s bank account.

Suzanne Parnell and Kelly Nixon separated the Belper Arts Trail from the festival and have moved it to August, initially this was explained as avoiding the shifted bank holiday, but a solid separation from George’s Belper Arts Festival was also an aim. Throughout their association with George they had been wise enough to organise, manage and account for the Belper Arts Trail as a completely separate entity. They have refused to work with George for the last year in any event they have been involved in, which includes their important roles in creating Pride in Belper and Love Belper, protecting those organisations from bearing similar losses.

Paul Terry has ended personal business with George Gunby and taken on management of Sergei Podobedov alone. He has saved the Belper Arts Festival by setting up a proper elected committee, constitution and bank account which requires multiple signatories whilst George was still involved, and fully separating the festival from him after that was deemed unwise. As of 18th November, Paul Terry is now the Chair of the replacement for the Belper Arts Festival. The festival will continue under the new name of Belper Fringe, chosen at the same meeting as the election of a new Chair. Belper Fringe is now working to reclaim The Bohemians concert and make sure everyone gets a show and gets paid.

Belper Fringe is starting with a budget of £0, because there is nothing left from BAF 2019. But the show will go on. Work on Belper Fringe 2020 began on 18th November. There will, temporarily be some crossover of names as the festival is rebranded to distance itself from George’s operation. All of George’s events have been removed from the Belper Arts Festival website, which Andy has taken control of, being the original designer of the website. This will soon be rebranded with the new Belper Fringe logo and details.

Sacrifice is still missing the money paid by the community and gathered by the hard work of Belper in Wartime.

Andy Mayers has been hit very hard by these events, as he has also lost Derwent Valley on Demand which he invested a lot of money into, and is a member of the new Belper Arts Festival (now Belper Fringe) Committee. Andy, despite trying hard to think the best of George and give him every extended opportunity to sort things out, has had no resolution to the situation. George has, upon request, written to Britons to tell them that he took the money that should have paid their bill, and took responsibility for his actions.

George has still not produced the loan which he promised to arrange to pay off £5000 of the steel bill. Andy secured some latterly donated money (not part of the missing money), approximately £1000, which is being held in the new Belper Fringe account and will be paid towards that bill of £6400 immediately. The groundworks bill of approximately £3000 is a separate bill. Andy is not named on these bills but they relate to his art, and feels the responsibility. He has co-operated fully with our investigation, but has no action he can take without the stolen funds being repaid.

Live and Local and Dick Watson refused to work with George again.

Belper in Wartime put in a lot of work to support Sacrifice, but were not responsible for the money, and have no idea what has happened to the money they helped to raise.  Adrian Farmer, as representative for the group, co-operated fully with our investigation.

The affected parties coming together has also resulted in an offer of mediation made by an affected community member trained in debt management. We will have to see if this helps anyone to get their money back.

Individually all of the people and the groups who organised these events have had a tough time finding proof of why there is a hole in their finances. Those who have tried to speak out have been in a kind of secret social war with George, with those who discovered wrongdoing being the ones who were not believed, or without information, were believed to be being mean to him.

Without these people coming forwards and talking to us and talking to each other, and talking to the police, this could not have been put together. Nailed has been increasingly concerned, as delays occurred and more information was uncovered, that we weren’t informing you quickly enough. Belper needs this information in order to make informed decisions about making arrangements with George Gunby.

Initially we (Nailed) gave George the benefit of the doubt and waited to see if he would honour his promises to sort out the missing money before we reported it. That didn’t happen, and while it didn’t happen more debts and behaviours emerged. We can’t prove where the money went, except that George had it. We can, and have, put all of the community’s experiences and evidence together to tell you what is known. These experiences were only gathered together in the last month.

All parties, including Nailed, have felt the emotional weight of investigating, reporting on, or feeling betrayed, by someone thought of as a trusted friend. Some parties have grieved. Nobody has acted lightly, or ungenerously. Nailed extended investigations for weeks in order to give George the most time to resolve the situation, or account for money and actions, with evidence, to the people who deserved it first. We went to unusual lengths, for a paper that doesn’t like bothering people, to get him to talk to us and account for what has happened. We did this because we believed that his side of the story should be published too. We couldn’t do this because he would not meet with this journalist “on the record”.

In going forwards, it should be remembered that these groups, festivals, art, committees, and Belper-invested individuals bear no guilt or blame for the missing money. They are responsible for revealing the situation, which is of benefit to Belper. At most they were too trusting, and Belper can learn from this, and make sure that all monies are accounted for and not entrusted to another group or individual without a written agreement.

The projects, festivals, people and groups should not be punished or blamed. They are the victims here.

Nobody has acted without kindness, without giving too many opportunities to make financial restitution and offer explanations. We can’t definitively tell you that George has acted in bad faith all along. We don’t know that, and we hope not. Some parties are still trying to communicate with him. Some have given up. Some money is gone forever. Nailed will not close channels to George in any way, as Nailed is the voice of the whole community, but we will still request that he speaks to us about these issues in full, on the record.

George’s actions, whatever the motivations, are fraud. Fraud is intentional deception to deprive a victim of what is theirs. In the case of Sacrifice, George knew that the money was given by the community for the single purpose of funding Sacrifice.  He knew that it was not his, or Belper Arts Festival’s money.  He deceived people in order to cover this up for as long as possible.  The definition is fraud.  Fraud against the groups, and fraud against the Belper people who supplied all of that missing money in the first place. George may well pay the money back, although we doubt he can obtain this amount of money without taking it from something else.


Editor’s note: If you have more information on this subject, you can email editor@nailed.community in confidence, or phone on 07881 284 805. We will not name you without your permission, and although it is much better if we can name a source, we are insured to defend against any requests for details of informants.

Clare Washbrook

Current Editor-in-Chief News and magazine editor since 1995 Post-grads: Literature; Theatre; Journalism, Ethics & Law Community Affiliations: Belper Goes Green, Belper's WW1 Poppies, Amber Valley Solidarity No political party memberships/affiliations.

5 thoughts on “A Sad State of Affairs

  • 20th November 2019 at 1:42 am
    Permalink

    Jail George. Investigate Liz( food festival)

    Reply
  • 20th November 2019 at 11:10 am
    Permalink

    After 18 months of rumour and gossip I am pleased that things have come out into the open, albeit with inaccuracies, misrepresentations and misinterpretations. In due course I will respond to the article in full and I am sure that Nailed will give me a fair hearing. At the moment my priorities are to clear the issues that are most urgent – Sacrifice and the small number of debts.

    Reply
    • 28th November 2019 at 12:51 am
      Permalink

      small number of debts…in comparison to a backlog of how many, George?

      Seems to be a fair few listed in this article as things stand…most folk would be hard pushed to earn that much in a year Duc.

      Reply
  • 21st November 2019 at 8:38 pm
    Permalink

    Thank you for such a detailed piece of journalistic investigation. I’m sorry to hear the police are not investigating these circumstances. Such a shame for the community.

    Reply
  • 22nd November 2019 at 2:32 pm
    Permalink

    Sounds like you have uncovered a thief and cunning liar by diligent and careful enquiry. A thief can be dealt with, but a liar can never be trusted no matter what he/she says. I am saddened that my former colleagues in the police choose to take no action. Only this morning I was posting on Facebook what a nice place and how nice the folk of my home town are, then this crops up. Well, most folk in Belper are nice and good, and it’s still a nice place to live. Carry on your good work. I do hope you come to a reasonably satisfactory conclusion.

    Reply

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