Beer festival's future could be in doubt

THE future of a leading Suffolk beer festival could be hanging in the balance, it has emerged.The East Anglian Beer Festival, held in April at Bury St Edmunds' Corn Exchange, has been going for 15 years.

THE future of a leading Suffolk beer festival could be hanging in the balance, it has emerged.

The East Anglian Beer Festival, held in April at Bury St Edmunds' Corn Exchange, has been going for 15 years.

Each year the popular event, run by the west Suffolk branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), offers thousands of enthusiasts and newcomers top tipples from both established brewers and the less well known.

The festival's importance in terms of tourism has also been highlighted by Bury's tourism supreme Nigel Aitkens.


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But in a private letter to the branch's 400-plus members, which has been acquired by the EADT, the future of the popular festival could be in doubt.

An extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of the branch will be held later this year to discuss the future both of the branch itself and the festival.

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In his letter, branch chairman, Chris Curtis, has given members six weeks' notice of the meeting.

He said: “I decided to do this because of the festival's importance to the branch and it is, in my view, too big a subject to discuss fully within an annual general meeting.

“In my opinion, the future of the beer festival and maybe even the future of the branch itself are at stake.

“This letter and notices have been posted to all members on our mailing list so we will make major decisions (including terminating the festival if it comes to that) with a clear conscience even from a small turnout.

“Please help festival and branch survive, make no mistake, important decisions will be made at these meetings, no fudging.”

Speaking from his Lakenheath home this weekend, Mr Curtis, who has openly criticised club members for a lack of campaigning zeal, said the festival had become “very big” and because it was staffed and run by volunteers also remained profitable.

But its future was at stake, he said, because the job of running and organising the festival was now left to too few people, who were having to work increasingly hard to keep the event a success.

He also said it was natural to consider the whole issue of whether to continue the event 15 years after it was first held.

“I am not saying it is going to stop,” said Mr Curtis. “That is something we will be discussing at the EGM.”

Nigel Aitkens, St Edmundsbury Borough Council cabinet member responsible for tourism, said the beer festival was an important highlight of the town's calendar.

He said: “Bury is an important town in relation to brewing. We have Greene King in the middle of town and the farming area surrounding the town includes malt and barley.

“In every aspect, it is important to the town and it is very popular with a lot of people. I've got friends who look forward to sampling the brews and the festival is just one more thing that keeps us on the map. We will watch events with interest.”

The meeting will be held in Oliver Road in Bury St Edmunds in October but will not be open to the general public.

Laurence.cawley@eadt.co.uk

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