Hundreds sign petition to keep the Willow Festival at the Embankment

A petition has started to keep the Willow Festival at the Embankment in Peterborough.

Thursday, 26th May 2016, 3:50 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th May 2016, 4:53 pm
Willow Festival 2014 at Embankment. Crowds enjoying the event EMN-141207-193142009

The petition by Tanya Collier, called ‘Save The Willow Fest Cambs 2016’ has already received over 230 signatures.

It comes after Peterborough City Council announced that the popular three-day musical festival, which features unsigned bands, will not be allowed back to the Embankment due to a row over fees.

The council is billing organisers for the first time this year as people are now being charged to attend the event.

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Ticket prices were introduced because the festival lost its council funding, but the council states that charging for entry makes the festival a commercial venture.

This is disputed by organiser Mark Ringer who says the event is not-for-profit.

A letter to Mr Ringer from Annette Joyce, the council’s service director: city services and communications, said that since May 28 2015 he had been “unable to comply with repeated deadlines and pay required fees.”

She added: “Whilst we acknowledge the Willow Festival brings vibrancy into the city, we, as a council, have an absolute responsibility to ensure all events held on our land are run in accordance to Health and Safety requirements.

“We also have a duty to ensure events are financially viable. If we do not have proof of either we simply cannot allow them to go ahead. Standalone verbal assurances are not, and never will be, sufficient.”

Mr Ringer said he had tried to pay the money asked by the council to use the Embankment but that it was refused. The council, though, says he was not offering enough of the £4,500 fee, which includes a £1,500 ‘bond’ to cover any repairs after the event, although this will be returned if there are no problems.

Mr Ringer also denied that the festival was under threat, adding: “As far as we are concerned we are running it. We are going full steam ahead. There’s still a lot of talking to be done.”

Mr Ringer had previously warned that without the support of the council, which he says has been lacking, he would not bring the festival back to its spiritual home of Peterborough in future years.

Having not been held last year, the Willow Festival was due to return from July 8 to July 10.

Writing on a Facebook page yesterday evening (Wednesday, May 25) Mr Ringer added: “Your ticket money, if you’ve bought them, is safe, and if the event did not go ahead you would be refunded in full. However, we are a long way from that happening right now.

“We have several options open to us, and we will continue exploring them all in the morning. Your support is very much appreciated and thanks so much for the kind words.”

Mr Ringer is also calling for the resignations of council leader Councillor John Holdich, and Annette Joyce.

Cllr Holdich has previously written to Mr Ringer telling him that organisers of the Beer Festival and the Bridge Fair would “rightly be annoyed” if fees were waivered for just the Willow Festival.