18 Sep 2015

Sweetwaters promoter Daniel Keighley dies

1:56 pm on 18 September 2015

The promoter of the Sweetwaters Music Festival, Daniel Keighley, has died at the age of 63 after a lingering illness.

Sweetwaters Festival 1980

Sweetwaters Festival 1980 Photo: CC BY 3.0 Sweetas

He 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.

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 comeback festival.

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.

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."

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.

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."

Daniel Keighley died from cancer this week in New Plymouth.