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‘Go it alone’ Wisbech council rejects inviting others to expand town festival

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A town council said ‘thanks but no thanks’ to a suggestion put to the Arts Council – who gave them £29,000 for a one-day festival – to bring in other groups for future events.

Wisbech Town Council was given the money by the Arts Council to help stage last year’s combined Wisbech Rock Festival and WisBEACH Festival.

Part of the agreement for accepting Arts Council funding was the production by the town council of an evaluation report.

2022 successful Wisbech Rock Festival staged by the town council. PHOTO: Wisbech Town Council

2022 successful Wisbech Rock Festival staged by the town council. PHOTO: Wisbech Town Council

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It was drawn up by local community group Blackfield Creatives.

But the very idea of bringing in other groups to create an expanded festival was rejected by the community and events committee of the council.

The committee is chaired by former council leader Sam Hoy, and those at the meeting which rejected the proposal were councillors Trevor Ketteringham, David Oliver, Steve Tierney and Susan Wallwork.

“She (Cllr Hoy) sought members’ views on the content of the report; particularly, the recommendations within the report,” records committee minutes.

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“One particular recommendation that the chairman asked members to consider is: ‘Consideration should be given to creating a Wisbech Festival working group, to oversee the development of a larger festival event, with Wisbech Town Council acting as chair’”.

The recommendation suggested “working with local partner organisations, who have experience of organising community-based events, would create an ideal opportunity to develop a festival which had longevity and the capacity to build a legacy for the future”.

However the minutes record that “members are of the opinion that Wisbech Town Council has a successful ‘track record’ of delivering successful community events and festivals.

“And having considered what they feel to be the potential advantages and disadvantages of having a ‘wider’ delivery group, can see no reason to change the current approach.”

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The minutes added: “Furthermore, Wisbech Town Council, which uses public money in the delivery of its annual programme of community events and festivals, is accountable to the public.

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“A larger delivery group which would include other groups/organisations would not have that same level of accountability to the local taxpayers.”

Blackfield Creatives

Blackfield Creatives CIC was formed by Tim Mann, a professional visual artist and Jenny Ward, who has a public sector and project management background.

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Their website says: “Having worked together on several large-scale art projects, which involved direct engagement with local communities, they identified a need for an organisation which could encourage and enable individuals to engage with, and enjoy, the arts.

“The aim of the team is clear – to deliver professional cultural experiences to those who will gain the most from them.

“Organisations often talk about working with ‘hard to reach’ audiences, but we want to understand who those audiences are and why they have chosen not to engage with the arts.

“By doing this, we can identify what and where the cultural voids are and deliver programmes locally which will enable new audiences to enjoy exposure to high quality, professional arts activities.”

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Coronation Event

The community and events committee has added a celebration to its calendar for 2023 to commemorate the coronation of King Charles III.

The committee is planning a similar events to that last year for the Queens’s Platinum Jubilee which will mean an event on North Brink, Town Bridge and Old Market.

Sunday May 7 has been scheduled for the event.

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