Comments and opinions from folkies on the crisis facing the Sidmouth Festival.
Trust Funds, Underwriting and Insurance
Even small festivals often take out wet weather insurance, there is about a 1:10 risk that it will rain like fury over the Sidmouth week and what a mess it can make!
If a trust was set up properly it could be used to cover other festivals too! They would still need to pay a fee form membership of the trust but it would probably be much less than wet weather insurance! Universities set up a scheme similar to this years ago - it saved money hand over fist for a long time.
I wonder if it'd be possible to have a levy during the week of 5p or so on every pint at pubs associated with the Festival, to go to the trust fund? Alright, the beer's pricey enough already, but it'd be an excuse to have an extra pint...
If a genuinely independent trust fund were set up, I'm sure that many people would be willing to chip in a few quid per year in exchange for some token benefits. The Royal Shakespeare Company has been running a scheme like this for a long time, and many other arts institutions do the same.
Of course a bigger subsidy from local or national government, more support from the BBC, and substantial private sponsorship would all be nice. But if they can't be got, then we may have to do it ourselves. Those of us who go to Sidmouth only once a decade should be willing to put our hands in our pockets, to ensure that the festival will still be there next time we fancy attending it.
I always assumed that insuring against excessive rain was an automatic part of running outdoor events in this country. It might not be cheap, but it's necessary. I've even heard of cases where the organisers actually hope for rain because they reckon they'll make more on the insurance than they would from the attendance.
Underwriting is always a problem, smaller festivals are being underwritten more and more now (even the Scottish Universities Scottish Country Dance Festival which goes on for all of one evening!) but I guess that the bigger you are then the more money you need and the more can go wrong.
If a trust fund were set up with appropriate rules then I have a £100 cheque ready and waiting. This could be the start of a festival insurance scheme which all festivals could join - being a charitable institution with no profit to make it could drive down the cost of festival insurance and therefore tickets too?
Lets float an Idea, all interested parties subscribe to a trust fund with very strict rules on its use. £200K whilst seeming a large sum is actually not that large - a banked trust fund gaining interest and administered by a neutral board could guarantee the festival! The find would then gain capital in interest too!
Perhaps other festivals could join such a body and remove the profiteering insurers from the equation the body could be a charity and thereby serve a wide range of festivals.
On a serious note, should the current promoters should be expected to take the risk? There seems to be this expectation from the interested parties that they should. Maybe the BBC should sponsor this event rather than Cambridge; but that is another thing altogether. A trust fund for covering the weather has been mentioned. How about the local government, chamber of commerce (and businesses) and folk music lovers who can't bear to see this "tradition" die, set up a proper trust to organise the whole event? They could sub-contract to the current promoters as consultants so that the knowledge/experience gained over the years is not lost; maybe Chris Pegg who has been organising Cropredy for so many years would relish a fresh challenge.
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