Cutbacks call as festival’s £4,200 overspend revealed

PUBLISHED: 14:55 18 July 2013 | UPDATED: 14:55 18 July 2013

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The big acts at the next Exmouth Festival may be slashed – with a new focus on local talent following an overspend this year.

Preliminary accounts for the Exmouth Festival for 2013-2014, up until the beginning of July, indicate an overspend in real terms of £4,200.

And now town hall finance chiefs are calling for better town hall oversight and to “get back to basics”.

This year’s free nine-day event was hailed as a great success, with an increase in donations and thousands of visitors spending money in local shops and restaurants.

But at the town council’s finance committee meeting on Monday night, town clerk Colin Poole said: “Last year there was an Arts Council grant for the festival and this year there wasn’t.

“Carla Hiley did an extraordinary job containing costs as well as she did. The festival has grown in size and popularity over recent years and brings hundreds of people into Exmouth.”

He said that the end of festival concert had made a loss, adding: “It did not prove commercially successful.

“[And] the scale of the festival raises valid questions about the choice of venue and the resources needed to run it successfully.”

Councillor Lynne Elson said: “I don’t want to put any dampener on the festival, but my concern is that this is public money we are 
spending.

“My concern is that the council as a whole has a say in where we go next year, and not just the festival committee, so we get a proper report and we can discuss this in council.

“I do think we need to make sure that we are happy it is being monitored ... and that it doesn’t keep going on and we keep making more losses every year.”

Cllr Eileen Wragg said that the danger was Exmouth would go down the path of the Sidmouth Folk Festival.

At its height in around 2005, the Sidmouth festival was costing £60,000 a year and organisers were forced to ‘downsize’.

“The Exmouth Festival was never intended to become this scale of expense, and it was never envisaged it would grow and mushroom as it has,” she said.

“We should cut back and go back to homegrown talent and have as much voluntary help as possible.”

Cllr Steve Wragg said that they needed to avoid the ‘big ticket’ acts which cost thousands of pounds.

“There are several pubs in this town that have entertainment that don’t pay a penny,” he said.

“It’s really just a platform for bands. We should just keep it to the basics.”

Finance chairman David Chapman said: “These festivals do seem to grow like Topsy – perhaps this is a very timely and necessary warning.”

But Exmouth mayor Cllr John Humphreys said: “We are talking about the festival that brought in thousands of visitors to the town. We were unlucky – I think if we had been able to use the Imperial Recreation Ground we could have been in the black.”

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