Fears for small festivals' future over licence demands

image captionThe Workhouse Festival had been held since 2004 in Powys

Organisers of smaller summer festivals have claimed some are being put at risk because of pressures of meeting licence requirements.

There are around 320 arts and cultural events in Wales, ranging from tiny events to the Hay and Faenol festivals.

Radio Wales' Eye On Wales features the Workhouse Festival in Powys, cancelled as organisers try to settle £15,000 debts.

Meanwhile, a west Wales music festival has seen costs jump to £170,000.

The programme on Monday hears claims that some smaller festivals, often established as community fundraising initiatives, are struggling to compete and stay afloat.


The Workhouse Festival in Powys was created in 2004 to raise funds for a community project to renovate a Victorian workhouse in Llanfylin.

It has been cancelled this year, as organisers try to settle debts of £15,000 and reassess how to survive into the future.

Mark Burnett, one of the directors, said: "We've seen over the past couple of years not only a huge increase in the number of small events, but following that a huge increase in the number of failures of events."

Meanwhile, the Celtic Blue Rock Festival near Llanfyrnach, Pembrokeshire is appealing against the revocation of its licence.

It follows concerns from Pembrokeshire council and Dyfed-Powys Police over the running of the event in August, which features acts including Goldie Lookin' Chain and The Blockheads.

Organisers say the costs of meeting licence requirements such as fencing, trackways and security personnel for the event have risen from £21,000 in 2004 to £170,000 last year.

The festival said it was "working hard" to ensure the event goes ahead.

Tourism consultant Terry Stevens told the programme he believes there will be "fewer and better" festivals in the future.

"There will inevitably be casualties as a result of poor management, poor promotion, the economic situation, not reading the markets right," he said.

image captionThe Hay Festival, and the likes of Stephen Fry, bring tourism but its director said many festivals are there as community celebrations

However, Peter Florence, director of the Hay literature festival and also Brecon Jazz, said the smaller, often voluntarily-run events like Workhouse Festival were not purporting to do the same thing as larger, more commercial festivals.

"Festivals are run for people and communities to celebrate, that's what they are. If there is a tourism component and people come and join you then that's fantastic- but that's not why you do festivals," he said.


The Wales Assembly Government recently published a 10-year major events strategy, which is out for consultation, but ministers say they are also interested in smaller, more local events too.

The strategy aims to build on major events like the Ryder Cup in Newport in October and increase Wales' reputation.

Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones said: "We're certainly looking for the big ticket numbers, and that has to do both with economic impact and to promote the image of Wales.

"But we're also interested in more locally-focused festivals which may not have an international impact in terms of image, but which may certainly support and stimulate the local economies."

Eye on Wales is on BBC Radio Wales on Monday, 21 June at 1830 BST.

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