The launch of the Crab and Lobster Festival - one of the events battling to keep grant funding.  PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Cromer and Sheringham festivals face funding battles

By STEVE DOWNES
Thursday, February 7, 2013
11.00 AM

Three popular events that extend the north Norfolk tourist season are battling for survival because of funding threats.

Councils have been accused of “short-termism” by cutting annual grants to Folk on the Pier, Coast arts festival and the Cromer and Sheringham Crab and Lobster Festival.

The events bring thousands of people to the towns at the opening and close of the traditional season. But this year’s Folk on the Pier could be the last one after North Norfolk District Council halved its grant to £3,000 and agreed to stop its cash support in 2014.

And the organisers of Coast and the Crab and Lobster festivals went cap-in-hand to Cromer and Sheringham town councils after they both decided to end their annual grant of £1,500 to each.

The plea for a rethink has prompted Cromer Town Council to pledge to discuss it again next month.

At Tuesday evening’s meeting, Sheringham councillors agreed to reinstate a £1,500 grant to Coast, on the grounds that it was not “self-sustaining”. But the decision to stop the £1,500 Crab and Lobster grant was upheld.

The situation has prompted traders’ leaders to urge councils to “look at the overall picture”.

Andy Bullen, secretary of Sheringham Chamber of Trade, said: “The festivals are very important to the business community of Sheringham and north Norfolk.

“The councils should look at the overall picture. We need to attract people to the area, and then they spend money. By spending £10,000 to support the festivals, they might recoup £30,000 in income from car parking and business rates. Cutting the grants is short-termism.”

Peter Stibbons, president of Cromer Chamber of Trade, said: “We are all aware of the constraints on public funding and the need to prioritise, but we would suggest that these festivals remain key events.”

As reported earlier Folk on the Pier promoter Scott Butler said he would think “long and hard” about whether to make this May’s event the last.”

NNDC leader Tom FitzPatrick said various events received start-up grants. The idea was that they became self-sufficient.

Should festivals be self-supporting or get help from local councils? Write to EDPLetters@archant.co.uk.