Festival future under threat
07:30 21 January 2014
The organiser behind Ottery St Mary’s successful Food and Families festival has warned it may not take place this year after councillors refused to award the event funding.
Ruud Jansen Venneboer, who played a key role in launching last summer’s inaugural event, expressed the fear after an application for a £1,000 grant was rejected.
Ottery Town Council instead offered to assist through practical means, including help with road safety and the free hire of its gazebos, but Mr Venneboer fears the festival’s budget is ‘unworkable’ without financial aid.
Councillors awarded nearly £6,500 in grants to community groups in December but were reluctant to hand cash to the festival because of its commercial element.
While it was acknowledged the event - which attracted thousands of people last year - was a benefit for Ottery-based businesses, councillors felt it was not appropriate to use town funds to support traders who come from further afield.
Members reviewed the application at their full meeting last Monday but did not change their stance.
Treasurer, Councillor Paul Lewis, said: “We don’t make grants to individual traders.”
Cllr Ian Holmes feared setting a precedent and said: “Going back over the years, we have had nurseries ask for money, and we have said no because they are a business. I don’t think we should support the festival financially - but we should be helping in a material way.”
Cllr Lyn Harding added the assistance on offer had a monetary value.
Mr Venneboer, who owns Mazzard Farm holiday cottages, told the Herald that the event was not set up to make his business money. “The festival is not run by Mazzard Farm, I just happen to be the owner,” he said.“We wanted to organise something that was a bit different to the traditional events in Ottery - and it was a success in its first instance.
“But we’re now in a position where we may not be able to come up with a workable budget for this year’s festival, so we are having to look at other ways to fund it.”
Festival organisers are set to meet with council officials next week to discuss a possible solution.