‘Ridiculous’ claim over Morecambe vintage festival cash

This year's Morecambe Vintage-by-the-Sea festival pulled big crowds to the town. Photo Martin Bostock.
This year's Morecambe Vintage-by-the-Sea festival pulled big crowds to the town. Photo Martin Bostock.

Councillors have argued over how much public money to give to Morecambe’s popular vintage festival.

The annual Vintage-by-the-Sea event sparked a heated debate at Morecambe Town Council.

Photo: David Hurst: Members of the League of Splendid. From left, Rob Bracewell and Ian and Rose Roberts.

Photo: David Hurst: Members of the League of Splendid. From left, Rob Bracewell and Ian and Rose Roberts.

Councillors voted 12 to six in favour of granting £16,000 for the 2018 event, almost a third of the total festivals budget.

Labour’s Coun Brendan Hughes said it was “ridiculous” to award Vintage-by-the-Sea - co-organised by top designer Wayne Hemingway MBE - so much money.

But Coun Tricia Heath from the Morecambe Bay Independents said: “This is by far the most popular local festival.

“It’s the one everybody talks about not just locally but nationally. It’s the highest one for hotel beds in the area. The national publicity we get from this is worth more than £16,000.”

Organisers had asked for £18,000, the amount they received last year.

But Coun Terrie Metcalfe, chair of the Festivals and Events Committee, said: “If it was up to me I’d have cut it in half.

“It’s becoming extremely difficult to fund the festival at this level year after year.”

Her Labour colleague Coun David Whitaker said: “We need to be encouraging them to seek other sources of funding.”

Coun Claire Cozler then said that most of the grant money “seems to go on fees to the organisers”.

Her Labour colleague, Coun Darren Clifford, refuted this, saying: “Most of the money doesn’t go on festival organisers and when you look at the books you’ll know that.

“It’s just not mathematically true.

“This festival won the Best Large Festival in Lancashire at the Lancashire Tourism Awards this year. It is recognised outside the boundaries of this town.”

But then Coun Brendan Hughes said: “We said exactly the same last year. How the hell can we give £16,000 to a festival that will not be commercially viable ever?

“For as long as I’ve been on the council we must have given it £60,000. That’s more than we’ve given communities to protect them against crime. It’s ridiculous!”

Labour’s Coun Tracy Brown said: “I’ve never agreed on how much money we give this festival and that’s not to say it isn’t a good festival.”

Vintage-by-the-Sea, held on the central promenade every September since 2013, pulls tens of thousands into Morecambe from all over the world to enjoy a weekend celebrating British culture through the ages.

The festival received £20,000 from co-producers Lancaster City Council in 2017/18 and was due to get another £20,000 for 2018/19 subject to the annual council budget setting process.

There was also controversy at last Thursday’s Morecambe Town Hall meeting over the annual ‘A Splendid Day Out’ steampunk festival.

The town council’s festivals committee recommended the organisers get no money because they didn’t meet the grant criteria, scoring the lowest out of all applicants.

After discussion, full town council agreed.

Organisers The League of Splendid had asked for £10,000, the same amount they got for the 2017 event which was the biggest the group have done to date.

Coun David Whitaker said: “This is a very popular festival.

“To get nothing, I think it’s deplorable. It might kill it.

“I can’t understand how they scored low. They provide value for money, they bring people in from other areas. It is attended by all age groups.”

But Coun Tricia Heath said: “It didn’t say on one of the posters or on the website that Morecambe Town Council had funded them.”

Speaking today (Thursday), Rob Bracewell from the League of Splendid said the town council logo had been on their website and on posters.

Mr Bracewell said it wasn’t on their flyers but that was because the 2017 grant was approved too late.

He said the Splendid Day Out would still go ahead in 2018 and they would look at other sources of funding.

“We really want this event to shine in Morecambe,” he said.

“But it is distressing. We’ve been furious about it.

“I can pull a festival together next year and close the door to everybody except steampunks but I don’t want to.

“We put the same application in as last year. We are all volunteers and we don’t get any income from this.”

He also criticised the ‘Dragons Den’-style grilling the applicants have to go through to get funding, calling it “worse than the worst job interview you’ve ever had”.

The Promenade Concert Orchestra, a series of light music concerts at the Platform, was also given no money this year because they scored less than the minimum criteria score.

The total festivals budget for 2018/19 was £55,000 including £5,000 to spend on promotional material.

The total amount of money asked for by applicants was £82,500.

Other festivals to be given cash by Morecambe Town Council included the West End Festival, Catch the Wind kite festival, Nice ‘n’ Sleazy punk festival, Make My Day festival, a touring three-day cycling event with two days in Morecambe, and a series of comedy and literature events centred around the Alhambra and Carleton suite.

The organisers of one of Morecambe’s biggest festivals, Morecambe Carnival, did not apply for any town council cash this year.

WHO GOT WHAT

Promenade Concert Orchestra (four concerts in 2018 at the Platform)

Applied for £2,000 Given £0 Awarded in 2017 £2,000

Lantern Festival (December 5 2018)

Applied for £4,000 Given £2,000 Awarded in 2017 £1,500

West End Festival (July 14 2018)

Applied for £3,000 Given £2,500 Awarded in 2017 £2,000

Catch the Wind Kite Festival (June 23/24 2018)

Applied for £12,000 Given £4,000 Awarded in 2017 £4,000

Make My Day Festival (August 5 2018)

Applied for £3,500 Given £3,000 Awarded in 2017 £3,000

North West Youth and Junior Women’s Tour (cycling) (May 28 2018)

Applied for £3,000 Given £3,000 Awarded in 2017 n/a

Nice n Sleazy Punk Festival (May 24-27 2018)

Applied for £4,000 Given £3,000 Awarded in 2017 £3,500

Vintage-by-the-Sea (September 1/2 2018)

Applied for £18,000 Given £16,000 Awarded in 2017 £18,000

A Splendid Day Out (June 1-3 2018)

Applied for £10,000 Given £0 Awarded in 2017 £10,000

*The next four festivals were applied for by the same organiser Matt Panesh and received a total of £16,500 between them – all are new applications for 2018.

Morecambe Story Festival (March 20-27 2018)

Applied for £5,300

Morecambe Comedy Festival (July 6-13 2018)

Applied for £2,450

Morecambe Fringe Festival (August 31-September 9 2018)

Applied for £9,950

Morecambe Christmas Fringe Festival (December 20-15 2018)

Applied for £5,300

HOW FESTIVAL GRANTS ARE DECIDED

Morecambe Town Council has a festivals and events committee who make recommendations on festival grants. Full council then makes final decisions.

Councillors on the committee who made the recommendations were Terrie Metcalfe (chair, Labour), Claire Cozler (vice-chair, Labour), Margaret Pattison (Labour), Ian Clift (Labour), Tricia Heath (MBI), June Ashworth (MBI) and Jim Pilling (Lib Dem).

Councillors Cozler and Metcalfe did not vote on ‘A Splendid Day Out’ funding because they were volunteers at this year’s event.

Councillors Clift, Cozler, Metcalfe and Pattison did not vote on Promenade Concert Orchestra funding because, like the applicant, they are part of the Labour party.

When awarding grants, the town council gives priority to festivals which pull visitors to the town and increase hotel/guest house bookings, engage with the local community, demonstrate progression towards self-sustainability, work in partnership with promoters, creative practitioners, businesses, community groups, organisations and agencies, have robust financial management and a clear marketing campaign.

A scoring system based on this criteria is used to decide grants.

Applicants must score a minimum of 18 to be considered for grants.

All events must be held within the Morecambe Town Council boundary between April 1

2018 and March 31 2019 to qualify for cash.

The festival must also be able to attract partnership funding, sponsorship or in-kind support for a minimum of 25 per cent of the whole budget.

Each applicant is interviewed by a festivals panel which is made up of councillors, John O’Neill from Morecambe Business Improvement District (BID) and Paul Bury, manager of the Lothersdale Hotel. Mr O’Neill and Mr Bury did not take part in any votes on funding.

You can watch the Morecambe Town Council meeting HERE.