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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Tourism fears as venues close and festivals are cancelled

Tourism chiefs are concerned about the number of cultural events in Cumbria running out of cash.

Ian Stephens photo
Ian Stephens

Ian Stephens, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, spoke out after the organiser of Lakes Alive revealed the event had been scaled back this year due to a lack of funding.

It follows the postponement of this year’s Solfest and the cancellation of the Whitehaven Festival.

Mr Stephens said there was no doubt the tourism industry would be affected by the cancellations.

The Lakes Alive series of events, which brought street theatre and outdoor performances to Cumbria over the past few summers, were cut back due to a lack of government funding.

It had been given £4 million in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics but that money has now dried up.

Mr Stephens said: “Where public funding is involved, we have a bit of a crisis in this county.

“We have got to do things differently and find new ways of funding these events.”

Mr Stephens said he was “very concerned” that the county could lose any reputation it built up for staging cultural event.

As well as event cancellations, art venues including Whitehaven’s Civic Hall and Ulverston’s Lanternhouse have closed.

Lakes Alive’s Julie Tait revealed last week that they still had “passion and energy” from people involved with the event, but lacked the money to “put on the quality of events people have come to love and expect”.

Lakes Alive events helped welcome the Olympic torch to Bowness, light up Whitehaven’s waterfront with pyrotechnics and see rugby league fans entertained by glow-in-the-dark stilt walkers in Workington.

Last month Gerard Richardson, chief executive of Whitehaven Festival Company, said the event, which attracted around 250,000 visitors, was being called off due to compensation threats. “The land space we had available was getting smaller and the fixed costs were getting higher,” he added.

“We were spending more on health and safety, medical and security costs than we were on entertainment and the difference was increasing as more and more potential risks were highlighted. More and more people were threatening to sue us because they were claiming they’d had minor accidents.”

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