Arts festival closes due to lack of funds

Drama group, left to right, Richard Wilson, Mary Hichens, John Hawkins, Alex Codling, Malcolm Ross, seated front, Terry Atkinson and Zane Desero.

Drama group, left to right, Richard Wilson, Mary Hichens, John Hawkins, Alex Codling, Malcolm Ross, seated front, Terry Atkinson and Zane Desero. Buy this photo

First published in Abingdon Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

AN ARTS festival which has attracted tens of thousands of people over the past 14 years has been cancelled.

Abingdon Arts Festival comprised about 40 events across 17 days each March and gave a platform to a variety of local drama and musical groups, as well as artists who could normally not afford to exhibit their work in a gallery.

The festival – which is believed to have attracted tens of thousands of people over the years – costs about £10,000 each year to stage, paid for by fundraising and grants.

But organisers say they cannot afford to produce a printed programme of events, at a cost of about £5,800, which they say is vital to success.

And they have decided to pull the plug on next year’s event.

Festival director Malcolm Ross said: “All the arts group in Abingdon and the surrounding villages will be disappointed, it is a good way for them to show what they do.

“The things I try and visit are those special things that wouldn’t have happened if not for the festival.

“The main motive for us was to try to get as many people involved as possible and to do that you need a brochure through every door.”

Mr Ross added: “If we had enough people and enough time we could raise the money.”

David Pedder is founder and chairman of Music in the Vale, which owes its origins to the festival.

He said: “I am very disappointed. They put on events covering all the arts, local talent and family events.

“I thoroughly support what they do, it is an important part of the future and the image of Abingdon-on-Thames, and it would be sad to see it go.”

The Abingdon Camera Club runs a photography competition each year at the festival which gets them new members and gives amateurs a chance to shine. Chairman Peter Phillips said: “We feel the festival is really worthwhile, and we are very disappointed.”

Abingdon Town Council leader Sandy Lovatt said: “It is a pity they didn’t come and discuss it with the town council.

“I am extremely keen to have the arts festival in Abingdon, as part of the overall strategy of the town.

“It is people that attract businesses, not the other way around.”

Vale of White Horse District Council has in the past donated between £2,500 and £4,000 towards the cost of printing the festival’s brochure, which is essential because many events take place at private homes.

But it has now set up a new grants scheme for festivals and similar events, and offered organising group Abingdon Performing Arts Group Enterprise £1,000 – the maximum grant the new scheme allows. The Vale said that it had awarded a total of more than £20,000 to the festival over the past eight years. A council spokesman said: “The festival organisers applied to the fund this year and were awarded the maximum amount of £1,000. The festival was able to go ahead without a grant from the Vale in 2011. As we understand it, there are other funding avenues that the festival organisers have not pursued this year.”

After the Vale withdrew its 2011 funding, the council and business partnership Choose Abingdon donated £2,500 to the festival to help pay for the brochures.

Comments (3)

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10:12am Wed 26 Sep 12

docs says...

These days, if you know where to shop, you can get an awful lot of printing done for not very much money. You could have some cheap flyers combined with an online programme, for example.

There has to be more to this story...
These days, if you know where to shop, you can get an awful lot of printing done for not very much money. You could have some cheap flyers combined with an online programme, for example. There has to be more to this story... docs
  • Score: 0

3:28pm Wed 26 Sep 12

Abingdon Neil says...

Is this a result of the changes to the Vale's grants budget where the Conservatives have cut funding for the Abingdon area and switched the money to the Western Vale area. They are now spending far more per head in the wealthy west than in Abingdon.
Is this a result of the changes to the Vale's grants budget where the Conservatives have cut funding for the Abingdon area and switched the money to the Western Vale area. They are now spending far more per head in the wealthy west than in Abingdon. Abingdon Neil
  • Score: 0

6:25pm Wed 26 Sep 12

Alastair Fear says...

Malcolm Ross and other Committee members have devoted a lot of time and energy to running the Arts Festival over the years. It has always been a high point in the Abingdon Arts Calendar. When the Vale says the festival was able to go ahead without a Grant in 2011 that was because the committee had reserves to manage it for one year, but not a second. You cannot really expect volunteers to devote lots of their spare time, and do it at financial risk to themselves. As Malcolm Ross said if they had more time and people they could find the money. But major business sponsors have not replaced the ones like Schlumberger who backed the festival up to 2 or 3 years ago.
Malcolm Ross and other Committee members have devoted a lot of time and energy to running the Arts Festival over the years. It has always been a high point in the Abingdon Arts Calendar. When the Vale says the festival was able to go ahead without a Grant in 2011 that was because the committee had reserves to manage it for one year, but not a second. You cannot really expect volunteers to devote lots of their spare time, and do it at financial risk to themselves. As Malcolm Ross said if they had more time and people they could find the money. But major business sponsors have not replaced the ones like Schlumberger who backed the festival up to 2 or 3 years ago. Alastair Fear
  • Score: 0

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