SO Festival ‘snub’ for inland communities

East Lindsey District Council has come under fire for not doing more to ensure the popular SO Festival continues to benefit inland towns and villages.

The Festival had become a popular event across the district with towns like Horncastle, Louth and Alford staging events, alongside coastal resorts.

But Adam Grist, ELDC’s Portfolio Holder for Market Towns and the Rural Economy, has confirmed that the festival will only be held in coastal towns.

He said no events were scheduled for Louth, Horncastle, Woodhall Spa, Spilsby and Alford and explained that was likely to be the case for the ‘forseeable future’.

Coun Grist made the announcement at a meeting of Horncastle Town Council last Tuesday.

Town councillors said they were disappointed and pointed out Horncastle had previously attracted up to 3,000 or4,000 visitors when it had opened the festival in previous years.

Coun Grist said he understood how councillors in inland communities felt.

He said he remembered, shops in Horncastle running out of ‘chips and beer’ – such was the popularity of the festival.

However, Coun Grist said that the Arts Council was now the prime funder – and not ELDC.

He told councillors the Arts Council had stipulated funding depended on the festival being staged in areas with known issues with ‘depravation and diversity.’

Coun Grist added: “When we were involved at the very start, there was more money sloshing around – partnership funding. That has now shrunk.”

He explained Magna Vitae were effectively representing the district council in discussions about the Festival.

Coun Grist said discussions regarding the 2018 schedule were still taking place.

He stressed there was no financial involvement from Magna Vitae whose main focus continued to be running the district leisure centres.

Coun Grist did admit he was disappointed inland communities would miss out and told town councillors the festival might well not have the same ‘razzmatazz’ as in previous years.

Town Councillor Matthew Wilkinson said inland communities ‘paid their share’ and questioned why so many events appeared to be held at the coast at a time when ELDC was keen to promote the Wolds as a destination for tourists.

He asked why ELDC had not asked town councils if they were prepared to contribute some level of funding in return for staging festival events.

He added: “There was no consultation, no engagement. We were never asked about funding.

“It is shameful to be told all the events will on the coast. We pay our share.”

Coun Grist said he would pass on comments to organisers but stressed funding held the key to the festival’s future.

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