Sniping could jeopardise sand festival

STEPHEN PULLINGER Yarmouth council leaders last night condemned "unfair" criticism of the resort which could jeopardise the return of the successful sand sculpture festival for a second summer.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Yarmouth council leaders last night condemned "unfair" criticism of the resort which could jeopardise the return of the successful sand sculpture festival for a second summer.

The festival's Dutch organiser, Thomas van den Dungen, appeared to be wavering about coming back after receiving a stack of sniping

e-mails, including propositions from rival resorts.

He said: "A lot of people have been telling me Yarmouth is the last place I should come because its image does not fit an event like ours."

Mr van den Dungen, who had appeared confident of returning when the first festival closed in September, said he had also received propositions from a number of seaside towns, including some on the south coast.

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He said: "I will be making my final decision in the next couple of weeks. One consideration is that in the first year, though we had a lot of visitors travelling from as far afield as Cambridge, support from people staying in Yarmouth was not so strong."

Bert Collins, the council's cabinet member for tourism, was indignant at any suggestion that the sand sculpture festival, which last year had an Ancient Greece theme, was too highbrow for the town.

He said: "We can certainly stage this sort of thing. We do get intelligent visitors in Yarmouth irrespective of what people say."

Mr Collins said although the £1m festival lost money in its first year, it still attracted 160,000 visitors. The fact it fell short of its break-even target of 200,000 visitors was probably down to terrible August weather which impacted on tourism.

He said: "We bent over backwards to help him last year, and I would have thought with the council's positive attitude and all the money we are investing on the seafront, he would come back."

Mr Collins said more popular themes being considered for a second festival, including Harry Potter characters or Nelson, would help to attract more visitors.

And as Dutch company Sculpture Events already put on a sand sculpture festival in Brighton, it would not appear to make economic sense to switch from Yarmouth

to another south coast resort.

The council's Labour leader, Trevor Wainwright, said: "Yarmouth has a totally unfair perception of not being a particularly good resort. That is simply untrue with all the money being spent on improving the seafront."

He felt an important factor in limiting visitor numbers the first year had been admission charges, costing a typical family as much

as £20.