Byron fans hope to 'raise profile' of Newstead Abbey

Newstead Abbey
Image caption Nottingham City Council, which owns the abbey, reduced opening times three years ago
Newstead Abbey
Image caption The council hopes events, such as the International Byron Festival, will help attract more visitors

Byron fans are in Nottinghamshire for the 16th international festival dedicated to the poet.

It will be the first time the festival, organised by the International Byron Society, has been held at Newstead Abbey, the writer's ancestral home.

Organisers hope the festival will raise the profile of the abbey, which has suffered from council cut-backs.

Festival organiser Ken Purslow said: "We are working as hard as we can to get more people to visit the abbey."

During the festival, members of the public will be able to visit the site with a reduced entry fee, if they download a leaflet from the society's website.

"Three years ago, Nottingham City Council cut the building's opening hours because of budget cuts.

"It was the first time that had been done and it was a great pity," said Mr Purslow.

"More and more people are aware of the plight of the abbey and the shortage of funds to assist it.

"It's such a wonderful facility and we were very concerned about it."

In 2011, the World Monuments Watch placed the abbey on a list of treasured sites which it wanted to be saved.

The city council, which owns the site, said at the time it was on course to reduce operating costs at the site from £600,000 to £300,000 and was introducing more events at the abbey to generate income.

Councillor Dave Trimble, who represents leisure and culture, said: "As Lord Byron's ancestral home, Newstead Abbey is the ideal location to host the International Byron Festival.

"We are really pleased to be able to support this event and hope this will be an opportunity for visitors to see what Newstead has to offer.

"We have increased opening times at Newstead Abbey this year, with the house now open on Saturdays and Sundays all year round."

The festival will include a rally of VW camper vans, a ghost tour, poetry recitals and a play on Byron's life and loves.

It started on Thursday and will run until 7 July.

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