First Light Festival set for 2021 return as council pledges £140,000
PUBLISHED: 06:00 02 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:36 02 September 2020
A commitment of £140,000 has been made for the return of the First Light Festival to Lowestoft next year, after coronavirus forced this year’s event to be cancelled.
East Suffolk Council’s cabinet on Tuesday night agreed to pump the six-figure sum from retained business rates into delivering next year’s festival, following the success of the inaugural 2019 event.
The festival, held on the beach last summer, attracted more than 30,000 people and brought around £900,000 into the town’s economy, according to organisers.
MORE: First Light brings £900,000 to Lowestoft economy
Councillor Craig Rivett, Conservative cabinet member for the economy and deputy leader, said it was “a great example of where we have put Lowestoft on the map”.
The 24-hour event was meant to be held on the summer solstice weekend, but the Covid-19 pandemic and associated social distancing meant it was not possible to hold again this year.
However, organisers instead put on a series of 15 live events streamed through social media channels, watched by nearly 17,000 people, to help keep momentum going.
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Conservative council leader Steve Gallant said: “There was really really good stuff that came out this year – clearly nowhere near as good as it would have been had we been on the beach.
“It was a great disappointment to us all that it couldn’t continue in the way we wanted it to, but it absolutely makes sense to me to put this [money] forward to next year and come bouncing back even better and stronger than it was before.”
The council is hoping that next year’s event will be even bigger, attracting between 40,000 and 50,000 visitors for the live entertainment, activities, stalls and food and drink.
It also aims to help boost the profile of the town as an attractive tourist destination, as well as encourage economic growth and aid local businesses.
The council’s report said it helped identify Lowestoft uniquely as the first place to see the sunrise in the UK.
Peter Byatt, Labour group leader at the council was among the volunteers for the 2019 event, and said: “It’s a tremendous event and a tremendous thing to advertise Lowestoft as a [visitor] destination, and really proud to be hosting it.”
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