Fresh hope for cricket festival

THE club behind a prestigious annual cricket festival which faces an uncertain future said it hoped the sporting celebration could continue in future years.

THE club behind a prestigious annual cricket festival which faces an uncertain future said it hoped the sporting celebration could continue in future years.

But David East, chief executive of Essex County Cricket Club, claimed a lack of movement on behalf of organisations in Colchester was one of the main factors that had placed the town's event in jeopardy.

Mr East said the club had incurred losses across the board in recent years and one of the areas it could no longer run or subsidise was festival cricket.

In order to continue the events, however, it was decided to offer "management" of them to the local authority who could effectively stage the festival, hiring the county team to come and play.

Mr East said that around a year ago he received a "letter of comfort" from Colchester Borough Council indicating that it would take over the Colchester Cricket Festival in 2004.

However, since then the responsibility for running such events has been transferred to the Colchester Town Partnership (CTP), which was formed last December to promote the borough.

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The festival, which takes place in Castle Park, is a favourite among local sports lovers and brings in substantial revenue from tourism each year.

"We flagged the funding up as an issue about 18 months ago. It's certainly a year since it became an acute problem," said Mr East.

He added that the decision on whether the town partnership should take over management of the festival had been scheduled after the cricket club's deadline for deciding whether to play it or not.

"Despite the length of time since we raised this matter, we are still finding the town partnership board meeting is not until after the date when we should be going to the England and Wales Cricket Board to agree to our fixtures for the year.

"If it is at all possible I know there is a willingness and desire to retain festival cricket at Colchester.

"I am disappointed. We were led to believe there would be a very positive mood in Colchester to go forward and secure this festival for the future.

"We are now a year ahead of the correspondence with the council and we are no further forward."

But Chris Rawlinson, chief executive of the CTP, said: "We are doing the best we can to try and sort this out. These things do not just happen overnight.

"We are looking at the possibility of doing it as an event.

"However, if people are saying this is so important to Colchester the funding should not be an issue, that is wrong.

"We have got to look at this and make sure it is viable in a practical, commercial and responsible way. Everybody seems to want the emotions to take over but that is not practical."

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