Beer festival faces uncertain future

By John HowardREAL ale enthusiasts have voiced their fears for the future of one of the region's biggest beer festivals.This year's Ipswich Beer Festival is going ahead as planned later this month, but the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said its future after 2005 looked far from certain.

By John Howard

REAL ale enthusiasts have voiced their fears for the future of one of the region's biggest beer festivals.

This year's Ipswich Beer Festival is going ahead as planned later this month, but the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said its future after 2005 looked far from certain.

The festival was started in 1983, but its future could be in doubt because its Corn Exchange venue could be closed or sold to a private operator.


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A spokesman for the Ipswich Beer Festival Organising Committee said: "The possible closure and subsequent sale of this prestigious arts and entertainment venue by Ipswich Borough Council, for possible conversion into a retail redevelopment, could remove the single largest and by far the most central letting facility currently available in the area.

"Closure of the Corn Exchange would actually be a double blow for local Camra members because the winter beer festival has also just move there."

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Organisers fear the need to refurbish the Corn Exchange and provide new disabled access could bring matters to a head.

They also believe, anticipating the closure of Suffolk College within a couple of years to make way for a new university in Ipswich, there will be no venue large enough to host a festival.

However, Ipswich Borough Council leader, Peter Gardiner, said: "It is very much early days. It's about getting the best value and asset management.

"Anything with the Corn Exchange is a long way off and we are going through a major consultation at the moment, which includes a big survey of all our buildings.

"Sensibly we are talking to those organisations who have used the premises for a number of years. We have been very open with people, we do not want it to be a bombshell should that option be chosen."

Mr Gardiner said the public might want the council to continue running all its facilities, but added selling the Corn Exchange off might mean it could focus more on other projects.

This year's beer festival will be held from September 22 to 25 at the Corn Exchange in King Street, Ipswich.

There will be more than 200 real ales, including vegetarian and vegan beers, cider, a local brewers bottle stall and a foreign beer bar. For more details, contact 01473 411482.

john.howard@eadt.co.uk

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