Thousands of pounds owed after ‘meaningless’ awards night in Luton

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An organisation in Luton is facing questions after hosting a charity awards night without paying the venue or contractors for services provided.

Proud Horizons UK describes itself as a community organisation and is fronted by Jake Turner-Coombs – the man behind an attempted ‘Luton Pride’ project two years ago.

On November 10, Proud Horizons hosted a charity awards night at the University of Bedfordshire. Since then, it has emerged neither the venue, the compere, choir or other tradespeople have been paid for their services on the night.

“It’s been a complete joke,” said make-up artist Shelley Andreff. “We all gave up our time and effort to do our jobs on the night, the least that he can do is pay us.”

Ms Andreff described a series of poorly-worded emails from Proud Horizons – signed under different names – each promising payment at a later stage.

It is a story echoed by Dominic Cooper, who acted as compere for the night performing as drag queen Daisy. He said: “I agreed to do it because I was told there was a whole committee running things, I had no reason to think I wouldn’t be paid.”

The manager of choir Incognito also told Luton News they were owed over £3,500 from the night and sound engineer Roger Gregson said he was owed £1,000 after being booked at short notice.

“Jake told me that the previous sound guy’s mother had died and that’s why I was booked,” Mr Gregson said. “I’ve had lots of promises saying when I’ll be paid.”

Several contractors appeared on the Jonathan Vernon-Smith show on BBC Three Counties last month, where a partial recording of the awards night was played. One award category was, “Project of the Year – which is a yearly project that works their hardest to make the project bigger and better every year.”

After ridiculing the “meaningless” event, Vernon-Smith advised caution against getting involved with Proud Horizons. He said: “We suspect that the whole organisation seems to be a figment of Jake Turner Coombs’ imagination.”

A message from ‘Alex’ at Proud Horizons was later sent to creditors promising payment on December 22 along with a £20 gift card, but at the time of press no funds had been sent.

Resentment over Luton Pride still lingers among Luton’s LGBT community. Jake Turner-Coombs made false claims that the event had booked Sam Smith and Adele and other funding promises also fell apart.

He re-emerged under the banner of ‘Proud Horizons’ in 2016. After assisting a project called Mocksies selling coffees in Luton town centre, the group was named runner-up for the Luton in Harmony Award in the Luton’s Best Awards ceremony that year.

Love Luton chairman Linsey Frostick defended the award and said: “As it seemed to just be a case of him wrongly stating that acts had been signed, it isn’t for Love Luton to make the decision to pull the organisation from [Luton’s Best Awards] as the Gay Pride event was not under Proud Horizons.”

Proud Horizons was contacted but failed to respond before we went to press.