R. Kelly has been axed from the lineup of an American music festival after organisers acted on criticism for booking the R&B star, who has a history of sexual assault allegations and child pornography charges. According to Pitchfork, a "mutual decision" was reached between Kelly and the organisers of the Fashion Meets Music Festival (FMMF) scheduled to take place between 29th and 31st of August in Columbus, Ohio.
There had been widespread outcry from locals over Kelly's booking. Folk-rock band Saintseneca wrote a post on their website explaining that they had opted to pull out of the festival entirely rather than play on the same bill as Kelly, describing their discomfort at being so closely associated with the artist. Additionally, local radio station WCBE 90.5 FM withdrew their sponsorship of the festival and another band Damn The Witch Siren also cancelled their performance, saying that they "could not support the decision to have a serial rapist perform".
The decision to take the R&B star off the lineup represents a U-turn from organisers, who had previously upheld their decision to book Kelly. Speaking to Columbus Alive in late June, festival co-founder Bret Adams said: "He’s good national press for us and Columbus. He’s a nationally known name. He was not convicted of anything. He was acquitted. If we wanted to limit our artists to people who never had brushes with the law or were not good people, then you can eliminate quite a few across the board. We’re running a festival to help brand the city of Columbus. We’re not the morality police.”
It seems like Kelly just became too toxic to associate their brand with. After the announcement was made by the festival organisers, Kelly's representatives released a statement that said: "R. Kelly is sorry to disappoint his fans, but looks forward to seeing them in the near future during one of his upcoming tours."
The allegations against R. Kelly were chronicled in detail in a December 2013 Village Voice article that went viral. Warning: it's not for the faint of heart. As far as we know, this is the first time a festival has dropped R. Kelly from the lineup because of his alleged sexual history. We're sure there are other headliner artists who've done despicable things – is it time that organisers (and festival-goers) take a stand against them?
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