Charges to stage Willow Festival could stop it from returning

The organiser of the Willow Festival has warned the event might not be staged in future years after being charged £3,000 by Peterborough City Council to use the Embankment.

Friday, 20th May 2016, 11:29 am
Updated Friday, 20th May 2016, 12:20 pm
Willow Festival 2014 at Embankment. Crowds enjoying the event EMN-141207-193142009

Mark Ringer said July’s three-day music festival could be the last one after criticising the council which helped to fund the event until 2014.

For the first time this year, the festival is having to charge for tickets which has led to the council seeking payment as it says it is now a commercial venture.

The council’s £3,000 fee is on top of a £1,500 ‘bond’ to cover any repairs after the event, although this will be returned if there are no problems.

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Mr Ringer said: “Two years ago they were putting money into the event, now they want to charge us for being here.

“I’ve paid part of the bond but a £3,000 fee is a definite no-no. It will make us seriously think about whether we ever want it in Peterborough again.

“We’ve given thousands of hours free for the city. I started this to help Peterborough and Peterborough artists, but we need the support of the council.

“If that’s not there we begin to wonder why we are bothering.”

The council bills all parties for use of the Embankment if they charge for tickets, even if it is for a not-for-profit event.

On this occasion, the council also argues that the festival’s financial plan “has led us to believe the rent we are charging is wholly achievable.”

However, Mr Ringer disputes the council’s claim and says his aim this year is simply to recoup the £120,000 festival expenditure. He added that the not-for-profit event has never made a surplus since it was first staged in 1998, with a reliance on donations.

Council leader Councillor John Holdich wrote in a letter to Mr Ringer: “Organisers of other events are charged for the hire of the Embankment, including the Beer Festival and the Bridge Fair.

“If we waivered the hire fee for your event, then I hope that you can see that it would put us in a very difficult situation when discussing hire fees with other event organisers who would rightly be annoyed that we had shown preferential treatment.”

The Willow Festival will take place on the Embankment between July 8 and July 10, with hundreds of unsigned bands taking to the stage.

The event has always been free, but this year visitors will be charged £10 for a weekend ticket, along with a £1 booking fee, to help fund it.

Mr Ringer said about a third of the tickets have been sold so far.