Decision to give folk festival £150,000 divides Sidmouth Town Council

Sidmouth Folkweek 2014. Ref shs 9227-32-13AW. Picture: Alex Walton

Sidmouth Folkweek 2014. Ref shs 9227-32-13AW. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

Civic leaders have pledged to support Sidmouth FolkWeek with at least £150,000 of public money over the next five years.

A proposal to guarantee an annual contribution, totalling £30,000, to the festival until 2020 was hotly debated by town councillors this week.

Members eventually agreed to a commitment in principle, subject to conditions.

Councillor Graham Liverton put forward the motion for the money to be guaranteed at a meeting on Monday.

He said it is ‘extremely important’ that the council gets behind the event.

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“It is the goose that lays the golden egg,” said Cllr Liverton.

“This is one of the most, if not the most important months of the year for Sidmouth and we need that money.

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“Without the security of the money, they do not know if they can keep running this huge festival.”

Cllr Chris Wale backed the proposal - which includes a £25,000 contribution to the festival, plus an additional £5,000 for the FolkWeek Social Dance.

“In terms of forecasting, it is a large event. They are booking far in advance and a year on year agreement is not enough,” said Cllr Wale.

Cllr Ann Liverton agreed and suggested that this should in fact be a minimum contribution.

But other councillors strongly opposed any guarantee of funding for the five-year period of time.

Cllr Ian Barlow said: “I am all for FolkWeek but in the times we are living in, we cannot guarantee the amount for five years. They should come each year and they should ask like everyone else.”

Cllr David Barratt agreed and added: “I am very concerned about five years and I am even more concerned that the minimum should be set.

“It is not about lack of support for FolkWeek, it is about whether we should be guaranteeing funds in these strained times.”

A proposal put forward by Cllr Jeff Turner was eventually agreed upon.

Under this arrangement, the festival will be guaranteed the funds for five years, subject to conditions, which include an annual submission of accounts from festival organisers.

A dedicated amount must also go to the event’s children’s festival.

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