Saturday, 8 August 2009

BROADSTAIRS FOLK FESTIVAL TO MOVE?

Reader Matt from Broadstairs writes:

"With Broadstairs Folk Week having just started it is time, perhaps, to find out if the persistent rumours about a proposed enforced relocation to another site are correct.

Businessmen and women in the town expecting, as usual, their bumper week in the pubs, eateries, food shops, off-licences, are concerned that pressure is being put on the committee that organises the event to move to another more rural location with Quex Park being quoted.
Thanet District Council has, apparently, charged or tried to charge the committee of mostly volunteers, £5,000 to close the bottom of the High Street and Allbion Street to traffic but stories are emerging that the council is keen for the whole event with its torchlight processions, children's activities, concerts, workshops to vacate their normal sites.

With a few exceptions, everyone from the schools where the campers set out their tents to the small town businesses benefits so who would gain with a removal of the whole event to Quex? Part of the fun for many is being able to stroll to the beach after watching singers and dancers before retreating to one of the town's pubs for stronger refreshment.

So far as I can tell there is very little trouble that needs the police during the week unlike Wednesday evenings when the crowds for the fireworks were reluctant spectators to the worst type of street entertainment -a fight on the pier where tables and chairs from the pierhead café were hurled about by drunken youths.

Perhaps someone who knows the correct story can enlighten us all."


I have asked a few people but have heard nothing on this so it would be good to have some confirmation of what is going on. I thought our Council tax funded Kent TV would have a nice film to highlight one of Kent's longest running festivals and yet there is nothing on it. However, search for "folk music" and you will find this video of the Smithsonian Folk Festival in Virginia, United States that Kent TV flew across the Atlantic to cover. No doubt this cost a few thousand pounds, whereas a cheap day return to Broadstairs would have been a tenth of the cost, and been far more relevant. Thankfully Youtube has plenty of coverage with several films from Michael Child. Michael points out on his blog today the failure of Thanet Council to adequately cover Broadstairs Folk Festival. Click here if you would like to see a little Morris dancing with plenty more links on the side panel.

The next time Kent County Council Leaader Paul Carter says that money is tight.....

21 comments:

  1. I've heard that rumour too and know many of the local traders are concerned. Don't know the reasons behind this but Broadstairs Folk Week would die the death if moved.

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  2. The best thing for Folk week is to move it it has become a glorified beer festival making the town very unatractive to the average family ..and the sooner the expensive fireworks nights in Broadstairs are stopped the better.Broadstairs resembles a tacky spanish resort in the Summer .STOP drinking on the streets like most UK towns have adopted.

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  3. It's the fireworks on Wednesdays during the season that seem to have fuelled much of the drunken behaviour. I think the Town Council funds those. If you walk into the town most evenings many of the café bars are empty but Folk Week and the fireworks guarantees they'll be full.

    I've heard horrific stories of wild behaviour on the evenings of the dispalys but it's only second-hand information.

    I gave up going to anything in Folk Week when it became impossible to enjoy the music due to the racket from the beer tent in the park and the constant chattering inside the marquee.

    Some of the events in the other venues are ok, e.g. in the Methodist Church (no alcohol) but, yes, it's been taken over by the drinkers otherwise.

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  4. Only the publicans rub hands Folk Week if you ask the average trader and local they are not in favour.The 2nd week of August is the peek week in any seaside town see how it would stand on it's own in say September .Every bed would be full in August without it .Folk Week has become a problem along with the Weds night Fireworks and puts off the family trade which Broadstairs needs 52 weeks a year.This is a very short sighted vision and is giving the town a bad image

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  5. Broadstairs is getting a bad reputation i agree with comment posted earlier about drinking on the streets it should be stopped and controlled the present system clearly is not working.Folk week has become a paradise for drunken behaviour .What a fine example Adults are giving teenagers parading around the town with beer glasses.I witnessed very bad loutish behaviour on the harbour wall last Weds night and will not be returning with my young family.

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  6. I went into the town yesterday and the pubs were packed with crowds drinking in the streets. As it was a glorious day I think the area would have been mobbed anyway. Broadstairs has tried various other themed weeks before and, apart from the Dickens one, they've not been a success.

    Do seaside towns need special events like this when families are happy with a sandy beach, plenty of eateries to suit most pockets?

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  7. Broadstairs Folk Week has been adding to the attractions which bring people into the town for 40 years or so, and is one of the most joyous and exciting events of any Broadstairs summer. It is simply not true to say the town would be as busy without it, as the week after Folk Week any year shows only too well. It is one of the most colourful and family oriented events you could ever wish to experience, and provides probably more free entertainment in a week than most other organisations provide across the whole summer holiday.

    I am not aware of any attempt to move the festival to a green field site; to do so would totally change the character and nature of the event. If BFW has a fault it is in the amount of free enterteinment it provides, thus reducing their ability to take larger sums at the box office and making them too reliant on grants and sponsorship.

    No one has highlighted, nor fought harder than I have to illustrate the problems within our town that the licensing act and extended opening hours has brought us. As a local councillor I have consistently opposed late licences as the norm, and supported dispersal orders, alcohol action zones and all that goes on to protect residents from the excesses of drink. But I have never opposed, even when it was required, later licences in Folk Week, when generally there is good humour and bonhomie around the town, evn late at night. As ever, the combination of alcohol and norms of behaviour is what brings trouble, and generally 'folkies' are drinkers but not troublemakers.

    The fireworks are paid for by the Town Council,and there are none during Folk Week as the town is crowded enough already. There have been in recent years incidents relating to firework nights which have required, and recieved higher profile policing. On several occasions people have asked for the fireworks to stop because of behaviour problems, but stopping a family event like this because of loutish behaviour is a real last resort for me - giving in to vandals and louts has too be a mistake, giving them too much power.

    Yes, the health and safety police make life difficult with risk assessments and road closures. There is not a town nor event in the country that does not suffer with that.

    There is real joy in the town on both folk and firework evenings, and such moments add hugely to the character and attraction of our seaside town. Get out there and support both, buy supper in town, join in the excitement as the darkness creeps in and the crowds gather to ooh and aah at what seems an improving display year on year; or dance with the Zulu Nation, or singalong with the Phat B'stards - Broadstairs should celebrate it all. These evenings are one of the reasons most of us love living here, aside from the other months of relative peace and quiet. They say when you go to these events, sing along and enjoy - and if the bloke next to you is not singing,he'sprobably got a hangover! Dont be such miserable buggers and always look on the negative side of everything, get out there and enjoy

    Chris Wells

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  8. Councillor Wells,

    I noticed yesterday that Albion Street and the bottom of the High Street aren't closed this year except on Wednesdays for fireworks (excluding this week). A year or two back these two were closed but could it be the committee wasn't prepared to pay what TDC wanted to charge them for closure?

    The snippet about the council wanting the event to move came from the committee itself and is common knowledge among the traders.

    I agree it makes the town lively but the council needs more street cleaners working to clear the rubbish left behind as nothing is worse than the morning after with all the broken plastic 'glasses' littering the place.

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  9. Fancy Cllr Wells popping out of the woodwork,Folk Week is not as popular as he states and maybe he would like to comment on the true cost of the FREE ENTERTAINMENT to the rate payer in a year when the Town council increased it's precept in excess of 7%.Folk Week receives grants from all the local councils (Hardly Free).The town council is out of touch with what happens in Broadstairs and maybe he as a non Broadstairs Kent County Cllr he would like to comment on the cost to Kent Police to cover the fireworks nights? I took my family to the town last Wednesday and witnessed appalling behaviour by youths we left home as happy people and to quote you returned as miserable buggers!It's about people like you stopped telling us what is good for us and listened to the voter as after all you are supposed to be an elected representative.I pay my rates to have bins emptied ,streets cleaned and too have toilets open and not to watch gentlemen in skirts to dance in the street.Broadstairs can look after itself in August if the all the basic functions a council should do are done !

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  10. Hi Anon,

    I am afraid that you are simply wrong - the bottom of the high street and albion street were both closed for the evenings all over the weekend.

    If the idea has come from the council, members, officers, or any other sort of minion, they are daft, and have certainly not dared broach the subject to Broadstairs councillors.

    My advice is ti go and dance in Albion street - now!

    Chris Wells

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  11. Anon,

    You get your (wheelie) bins emptied; you have got toilets open because of pressure from Broadstairs Town Cllrs; and we will simply have to agree to differ over men in skirts.

    I have nothing to add to what i have said about fireworks; the answer is not to allow yobs to drive the rest of us from the streets.

    Chris Wells

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  12. Hi Anon 2142,

    Your (wheelie) bins get emptied, by the district council; your toilets reopened, because of pressure and action by the Town Council; we must agree to differ about men in skirts!

    I have nothing currently to add to my comments on yobs and the streets; we should not give them victories. I am nearly always at the fireworks and observe what goes on keenly for obvious reasons - and I am not tucked away anywhere, rather on the sea front with my children.

    I believe the police are supposed to police the streets; not pick and choose which streets they police on which days. The last time I discussed this with a senior police officer they were entirely happy as long as they had along planning time to avoid extra overtime. As a Town Council we agreed to n ot rescedule any fireworks at short notice to work within this restriction. As far as I know, that is still the case.

    Chris Wells

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  13. The streets may be closed at night but a year or two back they were closed in the daytime as well with the cafés putting chairs and tables in the High Street. As I haven't been in the evening this year I stand corrected.

    If the 'free entertainment' causes the committee to be unbalanced financially then why not relocate and do what most other festivals do, sell a day ticket that entitles you to enjoy the facilities inside a secure perimeter? Some very successful festivals take place on farmland, college grounds etc. over two or three days. The local guest houses still make money as not everyone would want to camp.

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  14. How pleased i am to see Cllr Wells in this debate i am told you have more chance of getting 6 winning lottery numbers from him than an e mail response.As the gentlemen in question holds post in our 3 local democratic councils ,how nice it is too see him taking credit at town council level for opening toilets which had been closed by TDC....you couldn't make it up !!!!

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  15. Anon 15.19 Cllr. Wells commitments do mean he often has conflicting clashes meaning he cannot always stay for the whole of meetings. I think it is inadvisable to represent 3 local government tiers especially when Cllr Wells County seat does not cover his Town and District seats. This means he is representing 40-50,000 people as well as having a job. Almost as much as a MP without the same administrative support. However, on emails there are cllrs I hear of who are regrettably known for unresponsiveness, and his is not a name that is anywhere near the top of that particular list. Your complaint would have more credence if it was not anonymous.

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  16. Sadly there are a number of Tory councillors who ignore e-mails from voters but it is not, apparently, part of their code of conduct that they deal with enquiries from their wards.

    I was much amused when I posted on a blog on this topic that Cllr. Gregory suggested that, if my own councillors failed to respond, I should contact him. Er, 'why should I was my answer? Isn't it part of their responsibility not that of another councillor?'

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  17. Your stock in trade seems to be speculation and innuendo councillor. Surely this is unbecoming of someone in your position who should be capable of establishing facts?

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  18. Cllr Wells has been very pro-active in helping residents in our part of Broadstairs (the High Street and sea front)deal with problems arising from the new(ish) licensing laws and the impact they have had on Broadstairs, ditto planning applications/applications for licenses for new bars etc.

    The problem seems to be that as far as getting hold of alcohol nowadays, it's a case of anywhere and everywhere and the huge problem of proxy purchasing cheap booze. I don't see the folkies swigging from bottles of voddy in the side streets at 7pm, but I do see very young teenage girls and lads (cider being their drink of choice) doing just that on a regular basis throughout the year. And then they come back later to vomit, pee, flake out on the steps or scream at each other.

    Helen S - CT10

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  19. Anon 16.40 Are you trying to be ironic by making accusations of speculation and then remaining anonymous. I agree a cllr should be kept informed and be able to access information but this is TDC remember and I have outstanding requests on several stories I have written about which TDC has not responded to. To take one example the request on this story
    http://marknottingham.blogspot.com/2009/07/sandy-ezekiel-sneaks-in-10-higher.html
    from 21st July is now a month outstanding and other Labour cllrs have not been advised. It is hard to see how parking charges can be such a confidential matter and one of my colleagues has complained to the Chief Executive who is investigating this unacceptable performance by TDC.

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  20. Quote from Jo Tuffs, Festival Director in Friday's Gazette. 'The festival committee would meet in September to...decide whether it is viable to continue to hold the festival in the town'. 'Rumours this could be the last Folk Week in Broadstairs have not been ruled out'

    So your correspondent was correct in highlighting this issue and it was more than just a rumour despite Councillor Wells' s comments.

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  21. I wonder whether everyone who is complaining about folk week would prefer boarded up shops and closed pubs and restaurants. Many businesses rely on folk week to 'survive'!

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