COLUMN: Let’s get around the table and talk festivals

Chairman  of Morecambe Carnival organising committee, David Brayshaw.
Chairman of Morecambe Carnival organising committee, David Brayshaw.

DAVID BRAYSHAW writes...I’m frowning as I write this week’s column as I believe that Morecambe’s potential revival is on the brink of collapse.

After raving last week about the ‘Catch the Wind’ Kite Festival, I offered my opinion that Morecambe’s festival season could soon be a huge draw for tourists.

I think I spoke too soon because less than a week later Morecambe Town Council is proposing to put on festivals itself.

This comes at a time when Lancaster City Council has decided to put its festival organisation out to tender because it’s far cheaper to do this than try to organise events itself.

Most event organisers in Morecambe are volunteers. They don’t get paid.

They put on various events and festivals throughout the summer and most are free. They raise some money in sponsorship, raffles, concessions etc and the contribution from Morecambe Town Council’s festival fund can help them break even. By withdrawing the £1 - £2,000 funding assistance, some festivals will be unsustainable and they will die out.

So, can Morecambe Town Council fill the void and put on three festivals?

The first thing I’d say is that over the last two summers there have been over 20 festivals which have received some form of funding, so we could be down by 17 events in 2015.

Even if we consider the summer season to be the school holidays, this still means that half the weekends in the school holidays will have nothing going on. Not a great advertisement for a tourist destination.

I am on the organising committee of one festival, the Morecambe Carnival and the first one took 14 months to organise. We are already well into planning for 2015. We have a committee of around 12 people (volunteers) and five sub committees organising such things as the vintage market, fairground, concessions, children’s entertainment, traffic management etc.

We also have an employed professional events co-ordinator.

I do not believe that the Town Council has the necessary expertise or the capability of putting on three festivals of similar scale and, although I think that the town clerk is a very able person, I do not believe that he has the time to organise three large events; even if he started now! I also think that our town council is too cumbersome a machine to put on these sort of events, with working groups, sub-committees, full council and tendering procedures to work through. So what’s the answer?

Firstly, withdraw the current proposal, it isn’t going to work and it will have a detrimental effect on Morecambe’s fragile tourist economy.

Secondly, arrange a festival subcommittee meeting and invite all event organisers from the area to talk openly about what is best for Morecambe.

That is all that everyone wants, isn’t it?