Lowestoft air show to reach for the skies next year

THE Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival WILL take place next summer – but for the first time in its history it will be held over a weekend.

And while it is all systems go for the spectacular on Saturday, June 23 and Sunday, June 24, organisers this week revealed that next year's event was 'genuinely the closest to being cancelled or postponed' that they had ever known.

Today, The Journal can reveal that the announcement of next year's event came amid 'a lot of soul searching by the organisers' as they prepare to chart unknown territory.

The decision was announced by air festival managing director Paul Bayfield in front of a gathering of volunteer community groups at a presentation night at the Hotel Victoria on Wednesday – when �26,000 was handed over to various groups to reward their work at the show.

Mr Bayfield told the audience that people often said to him it was the same every year – with announcements being made that the following year's show was in doubt, but with it always going ahead in the end.

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This year organisers revealed that they really were not 'crying wolf' and the air festival was genuinely the closest to being cancelled or postponed that he had known.

'The problem is that we were really facing the unknown – with the month and days of the week on which the air show is planned to be held in 2012 having to be changed due to the impact of the London Olympics,' Mr Bayfield said.

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'The event has never been staged in Lowestoft on a weekend, or in June, so the likely response by the public, traders and sponsors to that change is uncertain. But we hope to attract a new audience, who may be able to come to the event for the first time, as it will be at a weekend.'

Organisers revealed this week that the 'turning point' that clinched the decision to go-ahead was a proposal made at a crunch meeting of the air festival's steering group last Friday – that as well as seeking sponsorship, the company should also concentrate on underwritten guarantees or risk bonds for funding should poor attendances, due to bad weather, result in the extravaganza not being able to pay all its bills.

As revealed in last week's Journal, local volunteer community groups and organisations have been approached to consider being paid less commission – if the event was not financially successful and an encouraging number have said they would.

But at last week's meeting, many of the 24-strong air festival committee also agreed to personally underwrite the event for sums ranging from �100 to �500 each should the same circumstances arise.

Air show director Brian Hunter said: 'We have handed out �26,000 to voluntary organisation to honour our commitment to them and to acknowledge their support this year and it was very encouraging that many of the organisations in turn pledged to underwrite up to 50pc of their commission next year if needed.'

Describing the dilemma the committee faced, Mr Bayfield told The Journal: 'The Air Festival must be financially viable before the green light can be given – after taking into account all the extra costs that we know will face us in 2012.

'The bucket collection this year was a good achievement bringing in �116,000 for which we are very grateful – but our overall income was possibly �35,000 short of the amount needed to give a clear go-ahead for next year. However with promises of underwritten guarantees we feel that we will be a lot closer to being able to meet our commitments.'

Mr Bayfield said: 'We constantly review all our expenditure and will be making cuts where possible and sensible. We are also looking at our income streams and trying to find ways of increasing them.

'This year a dedicated team ran a fashion show and a win-a-car competition which made a very welcome contribution to our funds and my sincere thanks go to them for their hard work and the wonderful achievement.

The winner of the brand new Ford Fiesta, supplied by Hammonds of Halesworth, was drawn on Wednesday and the winner's details will be published as soon as the winner has been contacted.

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