‘No turning back’ pledge after curtain falls on Dereham Festival 2012

There's no turning back – the new-look Dereham Festival is here to stay, and the campaign to keep up the momentum of 2012 starts right now.

That was the message this week from the volunteer team at the charity that put together the town's most ambitious feast of arts and culture in living memory.

But it stressed this week that it relied on the Dereham area public and business community to commit their future support to the biennial event.

And it issued an appeal for new blood and sponsors to come forward to start preparing for the 2014 festival.

Dereham Festival 2012 ended last weekend after nearly 20 musical and entertainment events held over a month and a Community Festival running in tandem that featured many more activities in villages as well as the town.

Festival chairman Jim Stebbings and community co-ordinator Brigitte Morton thanked the thousands of people who had bought tickets for events, the sponsors and the core of six volunteers, plus an array of other helpers, who had made it possible.

They said the main festival, which had cost some �40,000 to stage, had just about broken even, although the organisers had had to dip into their spare cash to help meet unexpected extra costs. 'We will pay all our bills but we have used up our reserves,' said Mr Stebbings.

Most Read

Apart from bringing exciting, quality performers to the town, he said, both festivals had boosted the local economy by drawing in visitors from across the eastern counties, had involved lots of young people from schools and colleges and had provided a showcase to audiences and artists for the recently-refurbished Memorial Hall, where many concerts took place. 'People have come along, seen the hall and been amazed. And the performers said they were very happy with the hall,' said Mr Stebbings.

He added: 'We have moved Dereham Festival to a new, higher level that will be challenging to maintain. But it is too well established now

at that new level to let go.'

In recent weeks the Times has been contacted by a number of festivalgoers – including people who had travelled some distance – curious as

to why there were so many empty seats at some events.

While some performances, including the one by globetrotting harmony act Blake and the Dereham's Got Talent! competition final, achieved

capacity or near-packed houses, others struggled to meet the organising team's targets. There were dozens of empty seats for the show

starring internationally-famous magician Paul Daniels – one of the headline acts at the festival.

Mr Stebbings said some attendances were the cause of great disappointment despite the festival's achievements. An example was the poor

turnout to watch classical pianist Warren Mailley-Smith, whose CV included appearing at Carnegie Hall and performances for royalty.

'Yes, I was disappointed that more Dereham people didn't get involved. I can think of people who came to nothing, and I can't understand

why,' he said.

He said the expectations of some townspeople that 'we're waiting for the West End shows to come' to the Memorial Hall were unrealistic

because the sums would never add up at the near-300 seater venue. 'No one is going to be able to bring anything as good as we have brought to the town because it would not work commercially,' said Mr


Mrs Morton said there had been a positive response to the Community Festival – which embraced everything from first aid to come-and-try

bowls sessions, a French tea dance and the musical production of The Railway Children staged at Dereham Station.

'It has been very good at raising the awareness of the many groups and the many things that go on, and it has also brought, I think, a

huge amount of community spirit,' she added.

Preparations for 2014 will start as soon as possible with a search for volunteers who can offer specific skills to the organising team,

such as marketing, and for new funding sources, in particular a significant commercial sponsor either locally or nationally. 'We're hoping the

business community will realise the real benefits that this brings to the town,' said Mr Stebbings.

There are hopes, too, or organising some interim events so that people do not have to wait another two years for festival-calibre


To find out more about volunteering for the festival team or sponsorship, call Mr Stebbings on 01362 693277 or Mrs Morton on 01362 696758.

The Times is keen to foster a debate on the festival. We'd love to hear your views whether you attended any of the main festival or

community festival events or not. If you did, what did you like or dislike about the programme. And if you didn't, why not? Would you have

gone if other events had been staged instead? Were the tickets too expensive? Write to Letters, Dereham and Fakenham Times, Bond House,

High Street, Dereham, NR19 1DZ.

The winner of the Festival Grand Draw was announced this week as Mr T Wood, of Hoe.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter