Air festival will go ahead in 2005

The immediate future of the Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival has been secured after it was put in doubt following the withdrawal of funding.

The immediate future of the Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival has been secured after it was put in doubt following the withdrawal of funding.

An independent business support group and Waveney District Council have been working together to draw up a plan to make the event self-sufficient.

The new group includes Graham Cooke, general manager of Unilever Ice Cream & Frozen Food, Lowestoft, producers of Birds Eye products, which has been the air festival's main sponsor, and Bruno Peek, chairman of Beacon Millennium, which organises major national events.

Now July 28 and 29 have been set as firm dates for the 2005 event and it is thought the show will continue for at least another two years.

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The decision comes after European money, which had supported the festival in previous years, ended after the 2004 event, which attracted nearly 350,000 people over two days.

Running costs are more than £200,000 and its future will now depend on the public and local businesses. This year, for the first time, visitors were invited to make voluntary contributions but about 45,000 visitors only raised just over £41,000.

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It is estimated the event raised more than £9m in revenue for the area.

The district council has agreed to work with the group for the next three years, offering officer time and contingency funds, should the event fail to break even in its early stages.

The group plans to form a charitable company and eventually become self-financing.

Wendy Mawer, member for regeneration at the council, said: "We recognise the event is so important for Waveney and we are only too pleased to offer our help and support to the charitable company with the object of making sure the show takes place every year."

Other councillors also welcomed the news.

Gifford Baxter said: "This is good news for the economy and good news for the area as a whole. Now what we need is the backing of the public to make future events a success."

John Goldsmith added: "This is the only chance the public get to see these machines in action close up, I'm very pleased it will continue."

Paul Bayfield, spokesman for the business support group, welcomed the new partnership.

"I am so pleased we are able to take these steps towards securing the air festival's future," he said.

"It is not only for the benefit of the people who live here but also to make use of the promotional opportunities that such a large nationally-recognised event offers in attracting increasing numbers of visitors to our area."

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