Canal festival’s bigger budget

Linslade Canal Festival 2015, MPLO
Linslade Canal Festival 2015, MPLO

Linslade Canal Festival has become a “victim of its own success” as the town council weighs up how to cope with growing popularity of the showpiece event.

This year’s festivities attracted a record 10,000-plus crowd to Tiddenfoot Waterside Park, with car parking and stewarding said to be the greatest challenges.

But the success has been placing increasing pressure on Leighton-Linslade Town Council staff who rally round to organise the festival on top of their regular workload.

A report to today’s meeting of the council’s events sub committee puts forward the option of scaling back the event to help officers cope better. However, the preferred option is to up the £13,000 festival budget to £18,000.

The extra funds will to allow the appointment of a contractor to organise and deliver some aspects of the July festival to relieve the workload of council staff, who will maintain responsibility and overall control of the event.

A report by the council’s town and community promotions manager, Gill Miller, states: ““Officers feel the event to be too large for the current small team of part-time staff to continue to organise and manage within a widening workload.

“The statement ‘a victim of its own success’ corroborates that this event is well respected and supported within the wider community and will only continue to be successful and well managed if the organisation team grows also.”

In all, 14 council staff helped steward the event this year, with four volunteers and four from an external events company.

The report points out that Leighton-Linslade Rotary Club regularly help with visitor parking as well as a volunteer moorings warden who deals with narrow boats.

But it adds that it is a “continuous struggle” to establish a regular working relationship with other groups or individuals, stating “this year various cadet and scout groups were unable to commit numbers because the event falls in the first few weeks of the holiday period.”

The report reveals that new fencing and gates within Linslade School grounds caused some difficulty with access and parking.

Organisers were also taken by surprise by the estimated 200 vehicles from blue badge holders.

The report states: “By early afternoon it was necessary to use Mentmore Park grounds as an overflow which took four stewards away from the event site.

“It is estimated that around 1,200 vehicles attended with 400 parked in Mentmore. In future a team of 13 to 14 stewards is needed to ensure all road closures, junctions and the school egress and access are manned.”

With the park not providing easy access for exhibitors or visitors, the council is looking at the possibility of running a shuttle bus from the town. They also may approach nearby landowners to see if extra parking can be agreed.

This year an impressive 126 pitches were taken by exhibitors and 34 canal boats were attracted.

A headcount saw 1,900 vistors pass through the lakeside area of the site, and there were still a large numbers entering the park after 4pm.