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Ron Hynes’ name pulled from songwriters’ festival title

A woman places her hand on the guitar on the statue of Ron Hynes on George Street.
A woman places her hand on the guitar on the statue of Ron Hynes on George Street.

A planned songwriters’ festival bearing Ron Hynes’ name is changing its title, organizers say, after they could not come to an agreement with Hynes’ estate.

The administrator of the estate, however, says that’s not entirely what happened.

Earlier this year, Songwriters NL — a newly formed non-profit group dedicated to promoting and supporting local songwriters — announced the creation of the Ron Hynes Songwriters Festival, scheduled to happen in St. John’s June 24 and 25. Along with a number of workshops for emerging and established songwriters, the festival was to include “The St. John’s Waltz,” a concert of Hynes’ songs interpreted by local musicians who knew and worked with him. 

“We want to keep the ball rolling, keep his name and his songs alive,” said festival co-founder Vicky Hynes (no relation) at that time.

The other founding members of SongwritersNL are Amelia Curran, Colleen Power, Sean Panting and Andrea Munro.

Local songwriters establish annual festival in Ron Hynes’ name

Wednesday evening, Vicky Hynes sent out a news release, saying the event had been pulled and the festival name changed.

“Songwriters NL was left no choice but to rename the Songwriters’ Festival in Ron Hynes’ name as we haven’t been able to negotiate a licence, permission or even a letter of intent from the Estate of Ron Hynes. This has left us no choice but to proceed with dropping Ron’s name and cancelling two nights (of) performances of his songs.

“It’s unfortunate and we are disappointed by the lack of co-operation from the Estate of Ron Hynes, which left us no choice.”

Heather McKinnon, Hynes’ cousin and administrator of his estate on behalf of his four daughters, told The Telegram she is sensitive to Hynes’ cultural, musical and historical importance and understands the perception of public ownership of him and his work, but is legally bound to represent the interest of his daughters, first and foremost.

“I’m sensitive to (his importance in the community) and I do want that celebrated, but my first responsibility, as administrator of his estate, is to his daughters.”

McKinnon, who was officially appointed administrator about three weeks ago, said festival organizers were advised in the beginning that a licence would be required, but they disputed that and weren’t open to a meeting with lawyer Erin Best to learn the legalities of the process.

No negotiating could take place until an administrator was officially appointed, McKinnon explained, and Best sent organizers an email this week to discuss the possibility of a licensing agreement.

In a written statement, Best said Vicky Hynes responded to that email and said she was interested in discussing a licensing arrangement.

“The estate was in the process of considering this request when Ms. Hynes issued the above-mentioned press release indicating that the estate was failing to negotiate, which was untrue at the time,” Best said. “However, due to Ms. Hynes’ mischaracterization of this issue the estate now officially confirms that it does not support Ms. Hynes’ event and that no licence will be granted.”

Best said an event is currently being planned that will benefit the family of Ron Hynes.

Songwriters NL announced the creation of the Ron Hynes Songwriters Festival without the permission of Hynes’ estate, McKinnon said.

“Any benefits that Ron endured as a musician and performer are now transferred to his daughters,” McKinnon explained. “There can’t be a community venture going on under his name without a licence for this reason.”

As administrator, McKinnon is responsible for managing Hynes’ debt as well as any income earned from his work. 

“His estate is as complicated as he was,” she said.

The Songwriters Festival will still go ahead, with a series of workshops led by Bob Hallett, Jim Payne, Colleen Power and Chris Kirby, as well as an Inkwell Songwriters Circle featuring Tim Baker, Mara Pellerin, Justin Strong and Sarah Harris. There will also be a screening of the Rink Rat Productions film “Ron Hynes: The Irish Tour,” and more details to be announced in the coming days at .

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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