Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Folk Festival Thoughts

Firstly many congratulations to the City Council Arts and Entertainments staff who put on another brilliant Cambridge Folk Festival last weekend.

As a Councillor for a neighbouring ward, I would obviously be keen to hear any feedback from local residents, good or bad about how the festival was run this year. But after many years there is considerable expertise, and as a major festival site in a residential area, considerable effort goes in to minimising the hassles for those local residents who may not appreciate the music or the revellers, so I hope there were no major issues.

When I was a Councillor previously in Cherry Hinton, a question heard more than once from a minority of people is why does the Festival have to be held in Cherry Hinton Hall, the site is too small etc it should be moved to Coldhams Common or elsewhere in the City. I disagree - the site is a part of the festival, and although there are many visitors from outside Cambridge, for many local residents the Folk Festival is a key part of their arts and entertainment calendar - long may it continue.

I will have a couple of comments for the organisers. Firstly, although the weather could have been worse, the rain showers will have resulted in some damage to the grass. After torrential rain some years ago there was considerable damage and the repairs were less than ideal - we need to make sure any damage this year is fixed as soon and as well as possible to bring all of the park back into use. Then there is my pet topic of cycle parking:

It would be nice if there was more temporary cycle parking on site to avoid bikes being chained to every available road sign and fence in the area.

But I suspect the most significant issue for the Festival going forwards is that of ticket pricing. In recent years, Councillors have repeatedly raised questions at Council meetings about ticketing arrangements, as demand significantly exceeded supply, and many categories of ticket sold out instantly overwhelming systems. But with ticket prices going up over a number of years, and Gordon Brown's mismanged economy sending household spending power spiralling in the opposite direction, supply and demand may have now met in the middle. Although a sell out this year, this took longer, and I was certainly able to buy a ticket a week before at less than face value. It was a similar situation with tickets at this year's Glastonbury Festival. Last time I looked at the finances for the Folk Festival (some years ago admittedly), although the accounts are muddied by 'central overhead recharges' from the Council (which make trying to understand any part of the Councils budget a nightmare), it looked like the Festival makes a modest contribution to Council finances. This equation would rapidly move the other way if the Festival ceased to sell out, so there is a risk with any further increase in ticket prices. Personally I still think the festival represents fantastic value for money, but ticket prices could represent a tricky call for organisers next year...

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