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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

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£600,000 festival: Town event gets bigger and better

THIS year’s Whitehaven Diamond Jubilee Festival will cost around £600,000 to stage – around six times as much as the very first event back in 1999.

The festival has grown dramatically over the years, from a maritime festival with air and sea displays to now being one of the biggest events in the country.

The first event cost £98,500 but now, with rising prices (not least health and safety) and a dramatic increase in the scale of the event over the years, it has risen to £600,000.

This year’s festival (June 1-3) will feature three big harbourside concerts – Katherine Jenkins, the Best of the Seventies and The Charlatans/The Enemy – as well as two large firework displays, the Red Arrows and celebrities such as Coronation Street’s Michelle Collins; Strictly Come Dancing’s Anton du Beke; and celebrity chefs Jean Christophe Novelli and Ainsley Harriott.

Since 1999 the events have cost a total of £5.8million and that has been helped by £2million in sponsorship. The remainder has to be generated through concert ticket sales, together with selling programmes and wristbands.

Festival organiser Gerard Richardson said: “I cannot stress the importance that the sale of concert tickets and wristbands play in financing the event.

“It has always been our priority to keep the event largely free and that’s why we consider our sponsors and concert-goers as family.

“The harbour is like Wembley Stadium during the festival. If we brought in a charge it would change the event and we would lose that magical atmosphere and we are not prepared to do that.

“We have a national-scale event and Whitehaven cannot afford to lose that. But we do rely on people to help us by purchasing concert tickets, wristbands and programmes and we are grateful for that.”

Gerard said the festivals over the years had generated a total spend in the area of around £45million. And, he says, the sponsorship the festival gets is invaluable.

“Since NMP and Britain’s Energy Coast have come on board as our main backers, they have been fantastic and have allowed us to have a phenomenal turnaround in being able to man-manage the event,” said Gerard.

Figures from a recent audit suggest that such an event would cost around £720,000 to organise and market if it was not run by volunteers, says Gerard.

“The bulk of people in this area are very proud of the event and from day one we have had a phenomenal turnout. And now it’s gone beyond that with people also coming from all over the UK.”

The national media coverage it has brought to the town and West Cumbria, with publicity from shows such as Coast and The Lakes, is worth millions itself, he added.

A book specially put together last year by Jean Christophe Novelli and Gerard entitled A Mad Frog and an Englishman raised £15,000 towards the festival. And they are bringing out another one this year which will be on sale during the festival and then be launched nationally at the BBC Good Food Show, at Birmingham NEC, in June. Entitled A Mad Frog and an Englishman go Fishing, it will provide a fine collection of recipes and feature areas such as Whitehaven, Ravenglass and Muncaster.


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