Poll: Lowestoft people asked ‘has the Airshow got any future?’

THE long-term future of the Lowestoft airshow was in doubt this week after it was definitely cancelled for next year with a warning it may not happen again unless the town shows its support.

Organisers of the popular annual event were forced to cancel the 2013 Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival because bad weather at this year's show saw a dramatic drop in entrance fees and donations.

The shock announcement has caused disappointment and sadness across the town as people began to realise that Lowestoft will miss out on the spectacular aerial displays from the Red Arrows and other planes.

And although the airshow committee is downhearted, it has pledged to meet in a 'couple of months' time to review the situation' but because of a �60,000 shortfall in the wet weather contingency fund, caused by this year's poor weather, there is no guarantee future events will go ahead.

Because of the rainswept second day of June's airshow there was a �55,000 drop in entrance fees and donations compared to the first day which wiped out the wet weather fund.

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Describing the decision to ground next year's show Paul Bayfield, managing director of the Air Festival who has been involved in all but one of them, said: 'I think the whole group involved feels it is like a bereavement.

'We all enjoy putting it on and it brings many benefits to the town.

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'We had a really, really first good day, but the killer for us was the second day. It absolutely threw it down.

'We raised �70,000 on the first day, which is more than we have ever had, but on the next day we only got �15,000.'

Mr Bayfield went on to say that future airshows can only go ahead if the money is found to fill the wet weather contingency fund – which can only be done if people and businesses in the town show their support.

He said: 'I feel it is really a question of 'do the businesses and residents want an airshow?' Maybe the answer lies in the townsfolk's hands themselves?'

There is also a fear that the expertise of committee members in organising the last 16 airshows will fade away the longer the uncertainty continues about its future.

A spokesman for the show said: 'The organising committee were saddened and very disappointed that they had to announce last Friday that there would definitely not be an airshow in 2013.

'They have pledged to remain together and meet in a couple of months' time to review the situation.

'Considerable expertise has been gained by the committee in organising the event which they do not want to lose if there is any chance the airshow will be revived.

'We really need to see some encouragement from the town to indicate whether the public and businesses want to support another airshow.'

This week the committee started to scale down its operation and reduce its overheads, such as cancelling the rental on emergency phone lines and looking for alternative storage for equipment, as part of 'sensible housekeeping' until the future becomes clearer.

Last week's confirmation that next year's event will not happen followed an announcement in July that it would not take place, which then led to a concerted efforts to try to save it.

Directors had look at underwriting, sponsorship, out-of-event fund-raising, event loss insurance and trimming the costs of the air display itself but unfortunately all the efforts failed.

Bob Blizzard, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, was the leader of Waveney District Council when the airshow started in 2007.

Like many others in Lowestoft Mr Blizzard is sad to see next year's event has been cancelled.

He told The Journal: 'I am personally very sad as the airshow first started when I was council leader. All those who have put it on down the years and those who tried to save it deserve our thanks.

'Huge numbers watch the airshow. If they had all put two or three quid in a bucket it could have continued.

'It seems some people want something for nothing.'

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: 'It is disappointing news that it has been confirmed that the airshow will not be going ahead next year as it has done so much to put Lowestoft on the map.

'Special thanks should go to Paul Bayfield and all the volunteers for their hard work in putting on the event over a number of years and I do hope that in the future the airshow will return.'

Traders in Lowestoft will also miss out next year as the hundreds of thousands of visitors who regularly go to the show will not be there to spend their money in shops.

Emma King, town centre manager for Lowestoft Town Management Partnership – the retail arm of the chamber of commerce – said: 'I am very sad to hear that the Lowestoft air festival will not be going ahead in 2013 – I truly believed that we would have one next year,

'It is a terrible shame for the town and will disappoint a great many people but let us not give up hope that we will have another Lowestoft air festival in the future.

'Lots of good things are happening in our town and we don't know what the future holds but it is all looking very positive. It would be great if the air festival could be part of this once again.'

When it was revealed in July that the airshow would probably not go ahead next year Steve Saunders, manager of Lowestoft's Elephant Interiors, set up the Save the Lowestoft Airshow 2013 appeal, which raised �2038.76 for the wet weather fund.

As the airshow has been cancelled, Mr Saunders will be handing over all the money raised to the Lowestoft-based Help an East Coast Child appeal instead. He said: 'I am devastated Lowestoft has lost the air festival next year. Maybe, as the saying goes, 'You don't know what you have till you lose it' may come into play?'

It costs �300,000 to run each airshow.

The airshow began in 1997. In 2004, social enterprise company, Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival Ltd, took over the show, which had been run by Waveney District Council.

•What do you think? Vote on the issue via the poll above, or send us your views by registering below, or writing a letter to Postbox, The Journal, 147, London Road North, Lowestoft, NR32 1NB, or email mark.boggis@archant.co.uk

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