GuilFest threatened by council proposal
Over hiring arrangements for Stoke Park
10 January 2008
Under the existing contract for hire of the site, the council takes a third of any profit up to a maximum of £18,000. However, they are now considering changing this when the contract becomes renewable in 2011, and charging the festival a fixed fee regardless of its earnings. This means that, even if the event makes a loss, it would still be liable for the full charge.
Shocked GuilFest organiser Tony Scott, who started the event 16 years ago, said he had no idea the current arrangement could be cancelled from 2011.
"It might make it difficult for the festival to continue if it loses money, and the chances of a festival losing money are quite high”, he said, “Festivals are very precarious business entities to say the least because lots of things can go wrong with them. You are in the hands of the weather and are relying on bands and acts to turn up.”
The three-day summer festival, nominated for three UK Festival Awards last year, regularly attracts crowds of 30,000 to Stoke Park and has attracted high-profile acts such as Paul Weller in recent years.
Last year’s GuilFest, which was headlined by Madness, made a net profit of £19,303 but Scott said this was only the third time it did not record a loss.
“The thing about the deal we’ve got is it’s flexible,” he said, “If the council decides to take away that flexibility it might mean we don’t have the money to pay for the following year,” he said.
Council director Jim Miles explained his reasoning: “The turnover on GuilFest now exceeds £1 million so that the hire fee for the use of Stoke Park of £20,000 is a relatively small element in the event’s budget."
Fiona White, leader of Guildford’s Liberal Democrats and borough councillor for Westborough, urged the Tory-led council not to jeopardise GuilFest’s future.
“It would be a dreadful shame if the council came to a policy which would threaten the existence of GuilFest,” she said.
“It’s not just that it’s a music festival, it’s about what it brings to Guildford as well. I’ve been to GuilFest almost every year since it started. It’s now become pretty well established on the music scene. It has a national importance as well and a lot of people thoroughly enjoy the festival.”
Conservative councillor and Executive member, Jen Powell, said the council was reviewing the contract in the same way it does SLAs with other parties.
“This is something we need to do,” she added. “It’s a normal process as far as we’re concerned. We’re very supportive of GuilFest and the last thing we want is for it to cease, but that does not stop us looking at it in a business-like way.”