Doubts over popular folk festival

RICHARD BATSON A question mark is hanging over the future of a popular seaside folk festival after its promoters suffered losses last year.

RICHARD BATSON

A question mark is hanging over the future of a popular seaside folk festival after its promoters suffered losses last year.

Cromer Folk on the Pier co-organiser Scott Butler says the event is “on hold” and is calling for greater financial support from the local council and pier managers.

Unless he gets more help by the end of the month there is a risk the four-day festival in May – planned to include international star Ralph McTell – could be scrapped.

But last night North Norfolk District Council said it was trying to support the festival as much as it could – in competition with many other arts events across the area.

Pier manager Openwide felt its proposed deal was a generous one and hoped the event, which draws hundreds of visitors to Cromer early in the season, would continue.

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Mr Butler said he and co-promoter John Eeles had suffered “personal financial shortfalls to the tune of quite a few thousand pounds” because of this year's event.

It had to be held in a marquee on a clifftop car park because of unfinished renovation works at Pier Pavilion, coupled with the worst weather in the festival's six-year history.

There was no way the couple were prepared to take “another financial dip on top our existing one”, said Mr Butler.

He hit back at claims in letters to the press that the festival was simply indulging his passion for folk music – pointing out that it was a passion shared by large, loyal and affluent audiences “willing to spend their money, fill up our guesthouses”.

He said building up the event from two days to four and a half had involved “six years of hard slog” and that his outcry was the result of pent- up frustration at a series of episodes in recent years. Next year's acts, also including Dr Feelgood and Sarah Jory, needed to be confirmed soon, so some movement was required by the end of the month.

Council head of leisure and community services Steve Baker said because it was so successful, the festival was now incurring bigger costs, and the council could not guarantee upping its current £6000 grant as it also had to support a range of other events.

Openwide theatre and attractions manager Sheena Fairburn said they supported the “fantastic” folk festival, with favourable terms in the same way they backed amateur drama and charity music events.

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