'Shock and anger' as Colne's iconic Rhythm and Blues Festival is permanently cancelled

Music fans and business owners in Colne have reacted with shock and anger at the news that the iconic Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival is to be cancelled permanently.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 2:56 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 8:00 pm
Crowds at a previous festival

The festival, which has attracted thousands of visitors from around the world to Colne over the last 30 years, was cancelled by Colne Town Council following a meeting on Tuesday night.

The decision by the town council, which took over the running of the festival from Pendle Leisure Trust in 2016, has prompted a wave of anger from business owners and residents in the town who accused the council of making the decision "in secret".

Held every August bank holiday, the festival has not run for the last two years due to the Covid pandemic, although this year's was set to take place with acts lined up, until it was cancelled in March with promises it would be held next year, although that too now seems unlikely.

Aneesa McGladdery, a member of Colne BID, said: "The decision of the town council to permanently cancel this iconic, wonderful event is absolutely bizarre. The festival has become an institution for Colne which attracts 25,000 visitors from around the country, and indeed the world, to our little town.

"What makes this decision even more upsetting is that the town council did not notify any of the local businesses that they would be discussing this at their latest meeting. It has all been done in secret.

"The festival is run at a loss, but local bars and other businesses the festival is a huge money-maker. The economic impact for those businesses will be great, not to mention the cultural impact the festival offers in terms of promoting Colne around the country."

Jane Turner, who runs Tubbs of Colne, said she had offered suggestions to the town council last year on how to make the festival more profitable for the organisers including introducing a £5 wristband for venues, but said her ideas were not taken up.

She added: "The organising, or lack of it, from the town council has just been an absolute shambles. I don't think they can be bothered basically. It could have gone ahead even this year as there have been plenty of outdoor festivals taking place around the country.

"I just think the town council is not up to the job of organising this event."

Nicola Holding, who runs Create Studio in Colne, said: "There are a lot of very angry people in the town over this news. The Blues Festival is an integral part of our social calendar. Nobody can understand this decision."

The town council's meeting agenda carried a recommendation "that Colne Town Council does not reinstate the Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival in 2022."

It was suggested that the town council runs a Summer Music and Food Festival on the Saturday of the August bank holiday weekend with an addition to the events budget of £10,000 to cover the event.

The council report went on to say that officers had started to plan other events for the next 12-18 months and had seen a noticeable increase in costs of essential elements of all events.

The budget originally set for the festivals that had to be cancelled was £50,000. However investigating the current costs and requirements it wa felt a budget of £75,000 would be required to do the 2022 festival.