Wales

Festival No. 6: 'Be seeing you' - end of event for now

Festival No6 Image copyright Festival No6
Image caption It is the seventh Festival No.6 - but will it be the last?

'Be seeing you' - the catchphrase that will be on the lips of thousands of visitors at a unique festival inspired by the cult 1960s TV show The Prisoner.

But when indie rockers Franz Ferdinand take to the stage on Sunday - it will be the end of Festival No. 6 - for now.

Despite a hatful of awards, the festival at Portmeirion in Gwynedd has outgrown its surrounding - and sometimes struggled financially.

Organisers have said it is no longer sustainable in its current format.

Described by the Independent newspaper as "the most bijou location of any music event" Festival No. 6 has been attracting about 13,000 visitors since it was first held in 2012.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Festival No. 6's home - Portmeirion - was also where The Prisoner was filmed

The festival's home was the Italianate village that was the stunning backdrop for Patrick McGoohan's famous role of trapped former spy Number Six in The Prisoner.

Over the years it has hosted the likes of New Order, Noel Gallagher, Beck and Mark Ronson - as well as showcasing the latest emerging Welsh talent.

The Pet Shop Boys described their appearance as "undoubtedly a career highlight".

It led to awards from the festival industry and music magazines such as NME, including title of best new festival in 2012, best small festival in 2013 and 2015 and best line-up for 2014.

Image caption The festival is held against the backdrop of the gorgeous Dwyrd Estuary near Porthmadog

But while the festival won plaudits, it has also gained headlines for the wrong reasons, with hundreds of people left stranded after heavy downpours flooded a park-and-ride facility in 2016.

Organisers later defended the decision to place cars on a known flood plain, with some vehicles stuck there for days.

The rain-drenched event in 2016 certainly proved to be costly.

Accounts posted at Companies House in March 2017 show that despite a turnover of almost £3.75m - the festival lost £103,000 that year.

The figures also revealed liabilities of £1.13m, with the company behind the festival effectively taken over by Global Media and Entertainment - whose parent company runs the radio stations Capital, Heart, Classic FM, Radio X and LBC, as well as a string of other high-profile festivals.

Image copyright Phil Colbert
Image caption Cara were left stranded at a park and ride site in Porthmadog in 2016

Describing the decision to put it on hold after 2018, they said it was "more than just a music and arts festival".

"In six short years, the profile of the festival has far outgrown its intimate capacity, picking up numerous awards, gaining international recognition and becoming one of the world's most unique festivals," organisers said in a statement.

"We always knew we had something special but we never quite expected it to capture people's imagination the way it has.

"Unfortunately, No. 6 is just not sustainable in its current format and so we've made the difficult decision to take a breather - 2018 will be the last Festival No.6 for now."

However, it added: "Taking a break is the right decision but not all is lost, we're already thinking about the future."

There has been speculation that it could return in 2020, but in a different format.

Image copyright Andrew Whitton
Image caption A festival-goer enjoys the view - about 13,000 visitors are expected this year

Gwynedd council, which has backed the festival since it was established in 2012, said it "understood the decision" not to hold the event in 2019 "so that they can look at the event structures and hopefully return with an even stronger offer in 2020".

The council's economic development cabinet member, Ioan Thomas added: "Gwynedd has established a reputation as a fantastic location for cultural events and large scale outdoor activities over recent years with Festival No. 6 being an important part of this success story.

"As a council, we look forward to discussing future opportunities to work with the Festival No. 6 organisers regarding this award-winning festival and hope to be able to continue our partnership and welcome back the event from 2020 onwards."

Image caption The festival has always drawn on the links to the cult TV show The Prisoner which was shot at Portmeirion - attracting fans back in the very first event in 2012

For this year's event, park and ride facilities are at Llwyn Mafon Uchaf, Criccieth, which is outside Porthmadog and off the A487.

To deal with the the volume of traffic, diversions will be in place on a stretch of the road between Criccieth and Penrhyndeudraeth, with access for residents only.

The A497 between Porthmadog and near Minffordd station will also be closed to vehicles from 22:00 BST to 04:00 each night, while there will be a shuttle bus from Bangor station to the site.

Image copyright Festival No. 6
Image caption Park & Ride map for Festival No. 6

Analysis by Huw Thomas, BBC Wales arts and media correspondent

For all its chic appeal and near effortless charm, Festival No. 6 fought hard to conquer the inhospitable terrain of the Italianate village and succumbed only occasionally to the worst of the Welsh weather.

But maintaining the appeal of a boutique event in a competitive festivals market has proved an annual challenge.

The organisers' concerns about its sustainability reflect the pressure to maintain the allure of No. 6, and why a rest is required to assess the next steps.

Any decision to return to Portmeirion lies with the festival's owners.

But its commitment to supporting Welsh bands will be missed, as will its broader programme of cultural debates and fine dining that accompanied its main stage headline bands.

While Wales hosts many festivals, No. 6 was one of very few to achieve UK and international recognition, and it will be missed if its organisers decide to pack up for good.

More on this story