ONE of the largest and longest-running arts festivals in southern Oxfordshire may have to fold after a search to find new directors failed.

Wantage Summer Festival, which has been around for 21 years, may not happen again unless a dedicated and passionate volunteer can be found.

Outgoing chairwomen, Linda Baines and Sylwia Korsak, announced they were stepping down in September and launched a hunt for two arts lovers to take their place.

Last week they announced that not a single person had expressed an interest in the roles, and handed over the problem to Wantage Town Council, which has been a long-term funder.

On Monday night the council held a meeting to discuss whether to take on the festival itself, appoint a civic director using council funds or leave the festival to fold.

With none of the councillors wanting to take on the work, members decided to take no action but kept the £1,500 festival grant in the budget for the next year in case anyone came forward to run it in the coming weeks.

Among the councillors was Julia Reynolds, who herself ran the festival for 15 years.

She said: "We're just going to have to see what happens, but I don't know if it will go ahead next year.

"I think a lot of people love it and I think a lot of people would be very sad to see it go.

"We just had to say 'it's a shame but let's see what happens'."

The month-long celebration of art, music, comedy, drama and science has been taking place in Wantage each summer.

Mrs Reynolds stepped down for personal reasons after the 2014 edition.

In late 2015, after that year's festival did not happen, Dr Baines and Ms Korsak stepped forward to take it on.

Over the next two years they transformed the way the festival was run, creating a new website and online registration process and spearheading more events for the younger generation including the Lego Expo at the Vale and Downland Museum and a digital journalism scheme for students at King Alfred's Academy.

This year's programme of more than 80 events also included ghost walks around Wantage, history talks and live jazz, folk and rock music.

Mrs Reynolds said they had done a 'superb' job rebooting the festival and getting a new audience.

Ms Korsak has now moved to Bristol with her husband, and Dr Baines has other commitments including a new teaching post at Southampton University.

Ms Korsak said she hoped the new festival website and framework would be easy for a new chairman or chairmen to work with for years to come.

She said: "The whole idea of me and Linda taking it on was to put a framework in place and we have made it very easy to run.

"This festival has more than 20 years of history: we don't want that to just fade away."

Mrs Reynolds said she thought the 2018 festival could still go ahead if a new director were found by January.

Anyone who wants to find out more should phone Wantage Town Council on 01235 763459.