Threat to resort's air show

By David LennardNEXT year's Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival could be the last unless more support can be found from sponsors and the public.The event is one of the most popular attractions in the region and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the seaside town.

By David Lennard

NEXT year's Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival could be the last unless more support can be found from sponsors and the public.

The event is one of the most popular attractions in the region and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the seaside town.

Research carried out by the East of England Tourist Board on the 2002 event showed air festival visitors spent an estimated £9,355,758 in Lowestoft.


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But despite the success of the event, its future is in doubt after European funding runs out next year.

A report going before Waveney District Council's executive next week made it clear that “without financial support from the public, the 2005 event cannot go ahead”.

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The air festival is organised by the district council and so far it has been supported financially by the European Union, but that funding ceases in 2004 and any future event would need to be self-financing.

For this year's two-day event, a total income of £155,000 has so far been raised against an original budget of £165,000.

An additional EU grant of £42,000 is expected, but the air festival cost £215,500 to stage, so it looks like making a loss.

Air festival co-ordinator, Mick Howes, said: “Measures taken to achieve cost savings in 2003 included reductions to the flying programme, advertising and hospitality budgets, as well as reducing stewarding costs.

“The projected increase in income was not fully realised as the non-appearance of the Red Arrows and poor weather on the second day of the 2003 event had a significant impact on visitor numbers, and therefore income from park and ride, programme sales and other activities.”

Members of the district council's executive will be asked to consider various options for the future of the air festival.

The 2004 event is not under threat because there would be “claw-back” penalties from the EU if it was cancelled.

But councillors will be looking at a number of possible options for the 2005 air festival, including:

n providing funding up to £79,000 to underwrite the 2005 air festival in its present format or on a reduced scale

n investigating the viability of a private sector organisation running the event on a self-financing basis

n encouraging an external organisation or charitable company/trust to set up and develop an independent air festival management structure

n considering introducing a one-day or two-day show with a flying programme on a single day or changing the air festival flying days to a Saturday or Sunday.

n withdrawing from managing the air festival after the 2004 event if no obvious external organisation takes on the fundraising and organisation.

“The overall message now is at the end of European funding the air festival will cease if it does not become financially viable or if the council does not commit additional budget to fund the event,” said Mr Howes.

The Civil Aviation Authority is also introducing new statutory safety requirements for air shows and these are likely to mean increased costs for future events.

david.lennard@eadt.co.uk

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