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Folk Festival Under Threat

Organisers of the annual Warwick Folk Festival may have to take the event away from the Town Centre because of lack of support.

The event, internationally recognised as one of the best town-based folk festivals in the UK, has been running for 22 years and this year’s Festival, which took place 27-29 July, attracted over 4000 visitors to Warwick.

While the main Festival events take place in the grounds of Warwick School on Myton Road, the weekend has always included a wide choice of free entertainment in the Town Centre. This includes music and song sessions in pubs, morris dancing in the streets and the Family Gala Day in the Market Place featuring dance displays, concert spots by Festival artists and children’s entertainment.

These events cost the Festival a considerable amount of money to put on. Dance teams receive free tickets and concessions to the value of £10,000. The free Festival bus service costs £900. Children’s entertainment, pub musicians and street shows cost a further £3500. Publicity for the Festival, which always promotes the name of 'Warwick' and is distributed throughout the United Kingdom, costs in the region of £7000.

Now the Festival Committee is considering keeping the entire Festival in the grounds of the School and turning it into a self-contained event.

Festival Director, Dick Dixon said:

"The Folk Festival has always drawn people into the Town itself and proved a great benefit to local business. This is what makes it different from tourist attractions like Warwick Castle where visitors are often bussed in and out of the grounds without ever visiting the rest of the Town.

"Although we do get some support and funding from a limited number of sources, it is becoming hard to believe that the Warwick Folk Festival is being taken seriously by local authorities and business. The event seems to be very low in their priorities despite its capacity to attract visitors from all over the world.

"People who come to the Folk Festival tend to be reasonably affluent and willing to make good use of the facilities offered by the town. The long-term benefit of the Festival is that people think more highly of Warwick and in many cases revisit Warwick in their own time."

The Festival does receive very limited funding from the Warwick Town and District Councils and the Warwickshire County Council Arts Panel. However this year, the only commercial sponsors from Warwick itself were Warwick Castle and three Town Centre pubs - the Roebuck Inn, Tilted Wig and Zetland Arms.

Dick Dixon went on to say:

"There are individuals who do work hard for the Festival – such as Joe Baconnet, Warwick Town Manager, and Dennis Stanley, the Economic Development Officer of Warwick District Council. We really do appreciate their efforts, but sadly they only seem to have access to very limited resources when it comes to funding the event.

‘In contrast, Warwick School has been extremely helpful, providing access to superb facilities such as the Bridgehouse Theatre and every assistance from the Bursar and staff. In terms of attitude towards the Festival, the difference between the school and the rest of the town is phenomenal."

As the Festival has grown in size and reputation, the organisers have found themselves under increasing pressure to maintain the highest standards in entertainment and facilities. Judging by responses from audience members and artists, they have succeeded despite the limited support from the town.

Dick Dixon concluded:

"To maintain the popularity of the Warwick Folk Festival, we really need the services of a full-time administrator. Running events at the school site and in the town is a complicated business, which requires a lot of planning and co-ordination.

"It’s amazing that the Festival has worked so well up until now with a group of us running it in our spare time. And sometimes it is very disheartening to make this effort for the benefit of the town but without evidence that Warwick recognises the value of the event.

"The Warwick Folk Festival is a very popular and highly successful event and Warwick should be proud of that."

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CWN / Arts / Clubs & Societies / Warwick Folk Festival / 3 Aug 01
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