Colchester festival axed for 2003

THE second and last remaining of Colchester's major festivals has been cancelled this year - amid accusations the borough council failed to give it enough support.

THE second and last remaining of Colchester's major festivals has been cancelled this year - amid accusations the borough council failed to give it enough support.

Supporters of the Colchester Street Festival will learn today that the 2003 event – including the annual Samba Ramble in the High Street, the Colchester Community Circus, and the Great Cloth Fair – will not take place this Summer.

The cancellation comes just months after it was announced the Colchester Free Festival, was also to be axed this year.

In a report to be sent to festival supporters this week, street festival project manager Dorian Kelly said that in a meeting last week the council refused to provide any support in either time or money.

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"They told us they would not help. Not in cash, not in kind. Not in any way, as they had no money.

"Colchester Festival Association has therefore decided they are not prepared to give any more time, money and help to a borough that seems to be so actively ungrateful. So there is no festival," she added.

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In previous years the council provided around £4,000 per year for the festival since it started in 2000 and was a runaway success.

But Mr Kelly said this year the borough turned down a request for £3,100 - £1,100 of which was not to be paid in cash but in kind, with help like leaflet distribution and marketing advice.

"As a direct result of this lack of visible support, we are unable to raise any significant money from our other major commercial sponsors.

"Quite rightly they say that if our council won't support us they cannot either. Who can blame them?" he said.

"We produced figure after figure [to the council] to show that there would be profits made for the town. We could have shown how much different local authorities in similar towns spend on festivals – ranging from £30,000 to £90,000.

"After three successful years, during which we employed hundreds of artists, entertainers and craftspeople, on a tiny budget, we genuinely believed they would be excited.

"And during the meeting only the one reaction – 'We are not going to help, even if we wanted to we have no money.'

"So we have thrown in the towel. We can't keep fighting for money and recognition every year. It is an uphill struggle."

Mr Kelly added: "This is not some form of blackmail in order to get them to cough up. It's too late for that."

But Ken Jones, the council's cabinet member with responsibility for arts and leisure, said the council was the wrong organisation to ask for the cash.

"Basically they put what they wanted forward to us a matter of a week ago, having been told over the last two years we had absolutely no budget for the festival.

"I found the money before from the town centre budget, which was underfunded, but all of that budget has now gone to the Colchester Town Partnership. That's who they really ought to be speaking to.

"After Tuesday's meeting I had my officers working to try and see what we could do to meet their requests.

"But within a few days of that meeting I was told that on January 23 they would be putting to their own people that they would not be going ahead this year.

"The borough council has been very open that we didn't have resources directly to put money into this."

Abby Cooper, co-ordinator of the former Colchester Free Festival, said she thought it was a shame the street festival was also to be cancelled.

She did not blame the council, however, because she said she recognised it had funding problems of its own.

"We cancelled the free festival because it was too much for the volunteers. The event had grown to big for a handful of volunteers to manage.

"The council gave us a lot of support, and we couldn't have done it without them, but with their own budget so tight they couldn't provide funding."

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