Headline news from the Sidmouth Herald on 8 August 2003: the figures quoted may be dismissed as risible but as so often in local government, no one questions what is put before them if the message is one that suits their purposes. The same claim is made in the 2004/05 EDDC council tax booklet, and reproduced below.

Festival brings 6million to town claim

A BOOST of 6 million goes into Sidmouth's economy this week - a direct result of hosting the week-long International Festival, according to a recent report.

Not only have shops, hotels restaurants and pubs benefited, but so too has the cultural tourism from the biggest festival of its kind in Europe. The first report by the Arts Council of England and Association of Festival Organisers on the impact folk festivals have on communities has been circulating this week.

It shows such festivals in the UK generate spending of over 77 million a year, helping sustain the folk industry, provide performance and sales opportunities employ support staff and stimulate the local economy.

It says: "As well as the obvious influx of visitors and benefits to the local economy, local businesses and voluntary organisations work with festivals to build lasting partnerships that benefit the area. And Steve Heap, organiser of Sidmouth's festival and general secretary of the AFO, adds: "The report demonstrates what we've long suspected: that folk festivals are a key sector in the UK's creative economy."

East Devon District Council is proud to sponsor the event, investing nearly 60,000 because it gives such a huge financial boost to the town as well as providing opportunities for residents to experience the arts. It also provides venues free of charge for the music, dance, Victorian fairground, workshops and children's festival.

Councillor Ann Liverton, council chairman. said: "The festival brings so much excitement to Sidmouth. I am delighted that the council helps make it happen. We are committed to supporting arts in the community, which is another reason why we continue to support the festival."

Councillor Paul Diviani, portfolio holder for economy added: "The Sidmouth International Festival brings 6 million into the local economy. It is a huge boost by any standards, which is why EDDC is committed to investing in the festival and ensuring its future success." Trevor Roberts, a director of Fields, is quoted in the joint report as saying: "In festival week the town is enriched both financially and culturally. "Town centre businesses and many others are boosted and benefit from the unique opportunity provided by the festival."

Paul Saunders festival press officer, encouraged more residents and businesses to support future festivals and recognise the benefits it brings to the town.

We have lots of friends in Sidmouth but we need many more." He said one of the keys to the festival's success was the vast amount of preparation undertaken and resources provided to the public. We try to offer entertainment for families and people of all ages, we encourage young people who arc interested in the arts to get involved at the festival.

"This week 65,000 people come Sidmouth because they know that they are going to have the best value day that they are going to find anywhere. "We need the support of the town to make sure that the festival keeps going each year"

He scotched rumours that next year's 50th anniversary festival would be a two-week event. It will run from July 30 to August 6 and the first 50 to buy season tickets for it this week have been promised a free copy of Derek Schofield's commemorative book of 50 years of the festival.

Mr Saunders said he looked forward to Sidmouth hosting the festival during the coming years.

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From the EDDC/DCC/Police 'Joint performance and council tax summary booklet' for 2004/2005.

The claim of 'generating 6 million for the local economy' was dismissed by speakers at the town meeting on 14 June 2004.

Many people at the meeting felt that the whole point of the festival was not about money but centred upon what made Sidmouth special.

A report from the Association of Festival Organisers (published in final form in March 2004) and which was the basis for some of the the claims cited above is discussed here. The full report is downloadable from the AFO website as a pdf document.

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