Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Financial losses force changes to Watchet Carnival Weekender

RADICAL changes have been forced on the organisers of the annual Watchet Carnival Weekender following a financial disaster suffered at this year's event.
The carnival committee introduced a £20 entry fee for the three days of fun for the first time this year after the event had been free for the past nine years.
The charge was brought in because the committee had to relocate to a new edge-of-town site off Brendon Road, following the start of a property development on its traditional East Quay home, which resulted in overheads rocketing threefold.
But too few tickets were sold and the attendance was also affected by horrendous weather which hit the area during July.
Now, the committee has decided that only the annual carnival procession and fete will take place in July, while the rest of the three-day musical event will be switched to the August bank holiday weekend - although the new date is likely to clash with the RNLI's annual Blue Anchor to Minehead raft race, which is being developed with West Somerset Council help into a major tourist attraction.
This year's November 5 fireworks display has also been cancelled because there is no money left to pay for it.
Carnival committee chairman Mark Bale has issued a lengthy statement to explain the committee's position. The full text of the statement is given here:

With having to relocate the evening music events to the new larger out of town venue, due to the alleged start of the proposed East Quay development and the Esplanade enhancement Watchet Carnival Club managed with all the odds against them to stage the 2007 Watchet Carnival Festival Weekend. With the horrendous weather conditions during June and July cancelling many local events the Carnival Weekend and parade went ahead.
The outcome due to the weather and a lower than expected attendance has left the Carnival Club with no working capital to stage future events, which has resulted in the cancellation of the annual November 5th Firework display. This over the past 5 years has been funded and organised by the Watchet Carnival Club in appreciation of the local support given by residents and businesses.
Albeit battered and bruised the Carnival Club is already re focusing and planning numerous fund raising events to recover the financial losses incurred and the Club hopes to be able to build up a large enough working fund by the end of the year so that plans can start to be put into place to stage the 2008 Carnival Festival Weekend.
Carnival Club Chairman Mark Bale added “We as a club have always prided ourselves in raising more than 70% of the total monies required to stage the Carnival weekend by being pro-active in fundraising throughout the year along with the support given in the past by Watchet Town Council as one of the major sponsors and the continuing support given by The West Somerset Free Press as our Media Sponsor. Without their continued support the event would not be possible. To get any national or local financial grants is proving very difficult within this area and we find it very frustrating that the Carnival Club doesn’t even get a look in most of the time! We have had two grants this year to assist us with purchasing equipment that we can use year on year to save on hire costs to these groups we are really thankful”.
“With everything that has happened this year we are still lucky to of come out of the 2007 weekend event without a bigger negative bank balance. The most important question now is can the Watchet Carnival Festival Weekend survive? Unbelievably there are people who would like to see the carnival weekend event fail - to them I thank them as I and the club’s management team will always rise to a challenge!”
With this in mind it was decided at last weeks Carnival Club meeting that the 2008 event will be split – the parade and fete will be held on Sunday 27th July and the 3 day music festival event will be held over the August bank holiday weekend (22nd, 23rd & 24th August 2008). Why make this change?

1) Mainly to ensure that the event stays alive and to be able to utilise the Carnival Clubs limited manpower.
2) To be able to focus on evolving the Carnival parade & Fete.
3) Save on having to hire in road closure marshals and parade marshals which will save the club a substantial amount of money.
4) Gives local traders & businesses the chance to promote and organise events themselves over the Carnival weekend and therefore increase their trade.
5) Gives the large number of people who enter the parade the option to be able to enjoy the live music event, which in the past they have missed because of the immense time taken in building and dismantling the floats keeps them away from enjoying the live music on the Saturday and Sunday.
6) Satisfies the comments that the Carnival Club have received in the past few weeks that “there was nothing on or to do” in Watchet over the August bank holiday weekend.
7) Makes the festival easier for the Carnival Club’s personnel to manage and gives them the opportunity to grow the event and at the same time cut overheads.
8) Means that the members of the club and the general public (who have helped) can pack the site down without having to use any of their holiday entitlement from work etc.
9) Lastly but possibly most important this promotes tourism into Watchet & West Somerset twice instead of only once during the summer months.

A Carnival Club spokesperson said: “We as a club are more determined than ever to make sure our event continues and we have been encouraged by the support we have received from both individuals and businesses from within Watchet and beyond. Their support and encouragement has given us the impetus to carry on with our plans, however we cannot wear our rose tinted glasses and think that we can comfortably raise the required amount without a huge amount of effort and some major financial sponsors. Because the financial shortfall was substantial after this years event and as mentioned we had to use all of our reserve funds to fulfil our obligations we have decided to try and raise the funds required whilst also cutting our costs without affecting the quality of the event. This is a gamble for the management team who as individuals will have to meet any shortfall that may occur after next year’s event if not enough money is generated over the months to come.” We will be releasing a limited number of weekend tickets to the 2008 event during October, November & December at the special price of £20 (for the whole weekend). This is to give local people the chance of attending this local event at a realistic price – the rate of the tickets available after Christmas will increase and for next years event there will only be tickets available on the gate if any of the total allocation is left unsold.
On a very serious note this popular 3 day event can and will only survive (with whoever is at the helm) if it gets the support and appreciation from the people of West Somerset!”

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