Press release from the official Sidmouth festival website dated 7 May 2004. East Devon District Council expressed 'surprise' at the tone and content of the statement - but had been told by Steve Heap what was likely to happen as early as January 2004. Most quality daily newspapers covered the story - a short article from the Daily Telegraph is reproduced below, as is the formal EDDC response. Some exasperation on both sides is already evident.


SIDMOUTH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL FACES CLOSURE

Sidmouth International Festival is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year from 30th July - 6th August with a fantastic line-up and record ticket sales (season tickets are expected to sell out very shortly for the first time in 20 years), all pointing to a superb event. It is expected to be a landmark in the festival's history and growth, and this year will be televised nationally.

However, there is now considerable uncertainty about the festival's future. The financial risk involved in organising and staging such an event has grown considerably over recent years, and the current festival management find themselves unable to commit to events in the future without establishing a security fund of 200,000 to underwrite the festival in case of adverse weather.

Sidmouth International Festival contributes in the region of 5,000,000 to the local economy, yet business in the district fail to realistically support the festival's Patron Scheme. Also after 50 years of support, East Devon District Council have indicated their financial support will soon come to an end, exposing the management to even greater risk than before.

Faced with this situation, the 50th Sidmouth Festival will be the last one organised by the current management.

The organisers are aware that this news will shock many of the event's supporters. This decision has not been reached lightly. The only way that the current management is prepared to consider a future beyond the 50th festival is to secure sufficient underwriting.

If there are companies or individuals willing to make significant financial contributions towards this underwriting they should register their interest to the Festival Office by Friday 28th May. Based on the response, final decisions on the future of the festival in 2005 and beyond will be made in early June.

Festival Office, PO Box 296, Matlock, Derbyshire, DE4 3XU, UK
info@sidmouthfestival.com

END

Closure threat over Sidmouth art festival

By Richard Savill

For the last half century at the beginning of each August, tens of thousands of extra visitors have swelled the summer population of a Devon resort by attending its increasingly exotic music festival.

But when the Sidmouth International Festival of Folk Art, the biggest and oldest event of its kind in Britain, stages its 50th anniversary event this year, the celebrations will be overshadowed by the threat of closure.

Organisers say the festival is at risk because of a growing financial burden that has brought it to "breaking point". A spokesman said: "We cannot commit to events in the future without establishing a security fund of 200,000 in case the festival is hit by bad weather and we lose money from cancellations"

She added that the festival contributed about 5 million to the local economy, but local business had failed to give enough support. East Devon council had also indicated that its financial backing would soon end, she said. Around 65,000 visitors are expected for this summer's event which runs from July 30 to Aug 6.


EDDC News Service 7thMay 2004 SIDMOUTH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL

In response to a Press Release from the organisers of Sidmouth International Festival, regarding funding for the festival after 2004, Councillor Andrew Moulding, East Devon's Portfolio-Holder for Leisure, said:

The council is somewhat taken aback at the timing, tone and content of the press release from Sidmouth International Festival and its parent company, Mrs Casey's Music.

The council continues to be supportive of the festival, both in principle and in practice. The2004 festival will be supported by East Devon to the tune of 60,780 in grant aid, not to mention other benefits that the festival receives without charge - such as cleansing and security services, use of council-owned land and premises etc.

In recent years, the grant aid has been index-linked and has risen from 50,000 in 1996 to 59,010 in 2003 - with a further increase this year.

The council recently commissioned an organisational development review of the festival's future, conducted by an independent consultant, which looked at how the festival might be structured and financed beyond 2004.

The two main council decisions arising from the review, of which the festival organisers are well aware, were that

1. The Council would enter into a limited agreement with Mrs Casey's Music for them to manage a festival in 2005 with ITS financial support comparable to that of previous years.

2. A working party should be set up to investigate the situation with regard to 2006 onwards, this to include representatives of all the major interested parties.

So far as the council is concerned, all of its actions to date have been supportive of the festival's continuation beyond 2004. Any suggestion that the council has indicated that its financial support will soon come to an end is highly inaccurate and is strongly refuted.

It may indeed be the case that the festival is seeking additional funding to secure its future, but this is a matter for the festival organisers and their potential patrons. In times of financial stringency, when local authorities are continually balancing provision of facilities and services with limited rises in council tax, it is the district council's duty to ensure that residents of East Devon receive best value.

The District Council believes that the strategy it has adopted for supporting the festival and assisting the organisers to find a way forward beyond 2005 is fair to all concerned.

ENDS


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