Cuts threaten future of Blues Festival

Pictured  at Colne Muni performing on stage are The Climax Blues Band.
Pictured at Colne Muni performing on stage are The Climax Blues Band.

The race is on to stop Pendle’s award-winning Blues Festival being shown a red light.

The future of the Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival is at risk from government-imposed cuts in Pendle Council’s spending, according to reports presented to top Pendle Councillors earlier this month.

The one thing we need to ensure is that the Rhythm and Blues Festival is delivered to the people of Pendle and beyond, whether or not it is organised by the Leisure Trust

Council Leader Coun. Mohammed Iqbal

And now they will look at other ways of running and financing the Festival.

Pendle Council’s Budget Working Group, which is looking at ways of balancing the books next year, has called a meeting early next month with representatives of Pendle Leisure Trust, Colne Town Council, Colne and District Committee – all the Colne area Pendle Councillors – and relevant Council officers to look at how to run the Festival in future.

The Blues Festival is run and paid for by Pendle Leisure Trust, which also runs on behalf of Pendle Council the swimming pools, sports centres and other facilities such as The Muni, ACE Centre and Marsden Park Golf Course.

This year’s festival suffered a big loss, all of it sustained by the Leisure Trust, while numerous pubs, bars, clubs, restaurants and takeaways raked the cash in while not contributing to the overall cost.

This year Pendle Council is paying the Trust about £2 million to provide these services. But the Council is asking the Trust to spend about £318,000 less next year as part of the drastic cut-backs that Pendle is having to make.

In order to make this saving, and to prevent any regular services being closed, the Leisure Trust has said it cannot afford to run the Blues Festival.

This year the direct net costs of putting on the Festival were around £50,000, but much senior staff time at the Trust is spent preparing for the Festival throughout the year, not just at the end of August.

In order to cut the number of top staff and save another £74,000, the Leisure Trust says it cannot continue to run the Festival as they have been doing.

At the last full Pendle Council meeting, Council Leader Coun. Mohammed Iqbal said: “The one thing we need to ensure is that the Rhythm and Blues Festival is delivered to the people of Pendle and beyond, whether or not it is organised by the Leisure Trust.”

The Liberal Democrat group leader, Coun. Tony Greaves, said: “We have made sure that the current Lib-Lab administration of Pendle Council is committed to having a Festival next year. But the Council’s financial position is desperate due to circumstances over which we have no control. and we have to reduce the Leisure Trust budget along with the Council’s own spending.

“This meeting is just the start of looking for ways of reducing or even eliminating what the Blues Festival costs Pendle Council without affecting the quality of the event – it’s a very important part of the success of Colne and a great showcase for the town. It will not be easy but we intend to find ways of keeping it that way.”