In both 2022 and 2023 I’ve put forward joint motions to help support Chippenham Folk Festival and ensure it continues post pandemic.
In both cases my motion has been to waive part of the hire fees for Town Council facilities. My rationale being that if the Folk festival failed to continue, then the council would be unlikely to rehire facilities such as Monkton Park or Island Park in time to recoup those lost fees anyway. I believe the benefit that the Folk Festival brings to Chippenham both economically and culturally far outweighs the opportunity cost of facilities hire.
Perhaps surprisingly my motion received considerable opposition in debate, but was carried through by vote in both 2022 and 2023.
In 2022 my motion was joint with Monkton Park Independent Councillors. For 2023 my motion was joint with Lib Dem Councillor Clare Cape.
Notice of Motion
To waive part of the fees payable for the hire of Town Council facilities in relation to the 2023 Folk Festival and support its promotion
Proposed by Cllr. Matthew Short
Seconded by Cllr Clare Cape
Chippenham’s famous Folk Festival has run for 50 years as a folk and arts event. Over that time, it has brought thousands of visitors and international artists to the town and has become a mainstay of the national and international Folk Festival calendar.
A difficult two years of cancellation due to Covid-19 and a shortened bank holiday weekend in 2022 has led to the Folk Festival’s current financial position continuing to be at some risk.
The Festival Board made some significant changes for 2022 to ensure that the Folk Festival would be sustainable over the shortened bank holiday weekend. They also asked for some support from the Town Council which was agreed without prejudice for 2023.
Importantly, for 2022 the previous charges for the Family and castle area were removed and a new program integrating the Children and Family program into the wider park area with the new Community and Family stage replacing the Big Top. This meant that the ‘free to residents’ and family offering was enhanced. The more inclusive nature of the festival was recognised and appreciated by residents.
Informal discussions with the Festival Board indicates that there have been heavy losses in the two years of the pandemic and just a small profit in 2022. The current economic downturn suggests that the Folk Festival itself, and potentially local businesses, may experience challenges in 2023.
Given this we would like to see the hire of Chippenham Town Council facilities waived or substantially reduced for 2023. This would de-risk the festival and help to fully re-establish it during this period of economic uncertainty. The cost of hiring Monkton Park (including River Island), the Town Hall and Neeld, is approximately £4,000; and the cost of the park approximately half of this. We recognise this as ‘opportunity cost’ rather than real cost incurred to the Council as it is unlikely that anyone else would come forward to hire the facilities during the Folk Festival weekend.
The whole town benefits significantly from this historic Folk Festival, through tourism and the economic benefits to businesses in the town. Feedback from town centre businesses such as The Flying Monk, Grounded, Angel Hotel, Black Horse Pub, and High Street stall holders was that there was a noticeable increase in footfall during the Folk Festival in 2022.
It also benefits residents through the family and children’s events, and a celebration of our musical heritage. There is also a rich, unquantifiable value associated with this long-standing cultural event, uniquely associated with Chippenham. Visitors from elsewhere in the country contribute to the success of the Folk Festival and to local businesses.
Council notes that:
The Chippenham Folk Festival is a valuable cultural, music and arts event that benefits our town and our community. Chippenham Town Council recognises the importance of the Folk Festival to the town and are committed to seeing it succeed.
There is a genuine risk that if it doesn’t go ahead in 2023, the Folk Festival’s future would be in jeopardy, and it may be permanently lost to our town.
Any decision taken to support the Folk Festival in 20223 would be made without prejudice regarding future years.
Council resolves to:
Offer its support to the Chippenham Folk Festival Board’s request by halving our hire fee for 2023,
Help to promote Folk Festival events via the Council’s website, social media, notice boards and joint press releases.