Petty minded attitudes at Sidmouth Town Council are indicative of the tensions between some councillors and the Festival. This report is from the Sidmouth Herald of 26 April 2002. The sum of money involved is a few hundred pounds! Can you blame Steve Heap for becoming frustrated?

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Charges plea in fight to keep festival local

SIDMOUTH International festival has appealed to Sidmouth Town Council to reconsider charging it 100 a day for occupation of The Ham by its marquee. A trustee meeting of the council in February agreed a 100-a-day fee in place of a previous arrangement whereby the festival paid 100 a day when the marquee was being used for performances, but only 50 a day when it was in place, but not in use.

In a letter to the council, festival director Steve Heap said that, with the marquee scheduled to be put up on July 27 in readiness for the start of the event on August 2, a rent of 1500 was being faced. He said this was a steep increase from relatively recent times when a charge of 50 a day was made and only for the times the marquee was in use. This gave a total bill of 350.

Then the charge went up to 100 for each concert day and now there was to be the same levy even when the marquee was not in use. Mr Heap said he was grateful for the 500 grant from the town council towards the festival children's events in Blackmore Gardens, but said that it had not gone up in recent years, even to take account of inflation. He said: "I find myself being asked to pay back three times as much as the grant that is coming to the festival in the first place."

His letter stresses that the festival company is non-profit making and exists only to keep the festival running, with any profits being reinvested into future development. There were no profits in 2001, with the uncertainty caused by foot-and-mouth hitting bookings badly and losses being sustained to add to ones in 1997 and 1998.

"The festival cannot cope with these continued losses and we have constructed a festival for 2002 which trims the event to a more manageable size and hopefully will rectify some of the problems without losing the charm and special, unique nature that it brings to Sidmouth," the letter continues.

"I appeal to you to reconsider your decision to charge the new fees. Whilst I appreciate you are acting as trustees for the Trust of The Ham we are trying to keep the festival where it belongs, in Sidmouth".

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