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Record numbers of festivals being dissolved

Record numbers of festivals being dissolved

31 events have already been cancelled this year, just three short of the 34 festivals axed in 2010. But in the past fortnight the rate of casualties has escalated leaving in fear that record numbers of live music fans will be left disappointed this year.

Just this month First Days of Freedom in Kent and Aberdeen's Northern Lights have been called off and August is shaping up to be just as bleak with Chalgrove in Oxfordshire, Exeter's Devon Rox and Devon's Bideford festival already cancelled. Other major events that have been scrapped include Vintage at Goodwood, which won the Best New Festival at last year's UK Festival Awards.

Many gatherings have been forced to pull the plug at the eleventh hour because of financial difficulties or licensing issues. Bideford was one festival that has cited fears over financial viability.

Bideford director Jerry Bix put a lot of the blame on the increased cost of transport. He said, "In common with many other established festivals this year Bideford Folk Festival has found that the economic climate and in particular the price of petrol have made people think twice about travelling long distances. Many of our regulars at the festival have been reluctant to commit and buy tickets, as they are concerned about the cost of fuel. In past years we have had visitors from Scotland, and other far flung corners of the UK."

Bix and others added that the cancellation of events will also harm the local economies - restaurants, holiday lets and local retail outlets - that often enjoy increased revenues with a festival in the area: earlier this month the Local Government Association predicted that festivals would contribute as much as £550m to local economies during 2011. However, Lee Denny the promoter behind Leefest was not surprised that the recession was taking its toll.

He believed many of the newer festivals have suffered because they have little or no track record in attracting repeat business from seasoned festival goers year after year. Also, he thought many outfits had simply been overambitious with their plans.

"I'm amazed when I see the acts that are booked for some new events, because you're talking about big money for big names. If you don't have any track record, that's a massive risk," said Denny, whose own event takes place on a farm near Bromley over the August 12-13 weekend Leefest was started six years ago and Denny said it has grown from just 100 people to a capacity of 2,000.

"That's through an approach that keeps everything within reach costwise," he said. Denny also urged other promoters to remain realistic with budgets.

He added, "When you have to stay modest with your finances, it means you have to be creative and innovative with the event itself, and that's what I'd encourage other start-up festival promoters to do, rather than take a huge risk only to see the event collapse."

While dozens of events struggle to make ends meet in 2011, some promoters have decided to cut their losses and concentrate on next year, when the absence of Glastonbury could see fans looking elsewhere for their festival fix. The organisers of the Firefly Festival in Ludlow said, "We know it's been a tough summer for a lot of festivals, and what's important for us is that we take this step in 2011, so we can look at coming back in 2012 evenmore triumphantly."

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