No sponsor yet, but air show will go on

Bosses of the Lowestoft Air Festival have confirmed the show will go on next year as the search continues for high-level sponsors. The announcement that there will be another air show next year came after a main group meeting of the festival committee on Friday where the provisional date for the 2008 show was fixed for July 24 and 25.

Bosses of the Lowestoft Air Festival have confirmed the show will go on next year as the search continues for high-level sponsors.

The announcement that there will be another air show next year came after a main group meeting of the festival committee on Friday where the provisional date for the 2008 show was fixed for July 24 and 25.

Frozen food manufacturer and current major sponsors Birds Eye have so far not committed to the event after their takeover by private equity firm Permira last August.

But organisers revealed that a potential new sponsor is being courted as they hope to sign up a corporate backer to escape the uncertainty of the “year on year syndrome”.

Festival managing director, Paul Bayfield, said: “At the moment we have meetings arranged with Birds Eye and I am hopeful that they will remain involved.

“We could still be without an event sponsor for next year, but we're looking at that positively as an opportunity to bring in a new sponsor.

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“The key thing is that Birds Eye has not said no at this stage, but since they were taken over they may have a different perspective.

“We are very attracted to another company. We have a rolling three-year plan in place, and we're trying to avoid the year-on-year syndrome.”

Mr Bayfield said that he hoped to announce the 2008 sponsors within the next month.

“Everybody wants to know, but the show will certainly go ahead next year,” he said.

“The key was the generosity of the public donations. They have bridged the funding gap and given us a clear mandate to press ahead.”

This year's festival got off to a disappointing start when high winds and rain halved the previous year's visitor numbers and grounded many of the key attractions on the first day.

But better weather on day two brought 170,000 flocking to the seafront to see a full programme of flypasts and aerobatics, led by the RAF's Red Arrows.

“The general feeling was that it went very well, even though the weather caused us enormous problems on the Thursday,” said Mr Bayfield.

Waveney District Council have committed to supporting the event until 2010, providing £30,000 of funding in kind for marshalling and emergency planning, plus a £40,000 contingency fund to cover unexpected shortfalls in the estimated £300,000 running costs.

The accounts for this year's show have not yet been published, but the latest estimates from Waveney's department for culture, tourism and sport say that the record-breaking 2006 show was worth an estimated £14.9 million to the local economy, and supported 247 full-time jobs locally and regionally.

Councillor Wendy Mawer is Waveney's portfolio holder for regeneration and also a member of the air show committee.

“Lowestoft is proud of its air festival and we would regret it if it wasn't there,” she said.

“We feel that importance, otherwise we would not be backing the show until 2010 and offering the ability to underwrite it should there be a problem with the finances.

“A lot of things are not settled this early, and we need to be fluid in our arrangements with the RAF and the private pilots.”

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