I will not attend

In late 1996, I was co-opted onto a volunteer committee tasked with organising the following year’s Abbey Park Festival, in Leicester.

This was an established one-day event with six stages, whose future was threatened by a substantial loss made in the previous year by a private promoter. We had to make sure the festival happened, on budget.

One difficult early decision we took was to introduce an admission charge. We realised that this might be controversial, because we were effectively closing a popular park to the public, so we made sure this was made known promptly and clearly using the local radio stations and the supportive local paper. Because we took this action and the public was given the opportunity to understand the circumstances, there was little negative reaction and that year’s festival was a great success.

When Exmouth Town Council took the decision to effectively close Manor Gardens, so that Mr George Nightingale could run his ticket-only event, did no one think to promptly inform the public of this? I first heard of the event in July, but my first awareness of charging was over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Mr Nightingale states that his event was many months in the planning, so how long before the initial July announcement is that?

Mr Nightingale also ran a very successful event in The Strand in July, before, I believe, plans for this next one were announced. He did us all a great favour then by demonstrating that successful events could be run in The Strand to the benefit of all the neighbouring businesses and the community, without the need for a building that would disrupt the newly-achieved openness.

While there was a surprising degree of enclosure of one end of The Strand on that occasion, Mr Nightingale, to his credit, did not assert ownership of that area. However, in planning for the Manor Gardens event, he has imposed a host of terms and conditions, including that those attending may not bring food and drink.

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There is a tradition at our local festival and the smaller events that families, particularly, will bring a picnic to have while they enjoy the entertainment. I am sure that concession holders at both Exmouth Festival and Glastonbury would tell him that a captive market is not necessary for them to have a successful event.

Could someone please confirm that Exmouth Town Council clearly and unequivocally gave him permission to prevent attendees from bringing a picnic?

Being a regular supporter of these events, I put the date in my diary when I first heard of it. I would happily have paid a voluntary admission of the level being charged, even though the musical fare on offer is rather familiar.

However, what I consider lack of information, plus the totally inappropriate restrictions imposed, mean that I am one of many regulars who will not be attending.

Could anyone who would like to participate in organising an equivalent free festival please contact me at eastdevonbugle@hotmail.co.uk

I am confident the town council and our local paper will give us the same level of support.

Mark Hawkins

(via email).

EDITOR’S NOTE: we would be happy to support a free festival, in the same way we attempt to publicise as many events as possible. Also, we understand people will be issued wristbands to go in and out of the event when they have bought a ticket.