BASINGSTOKE’S biggest free music event is facing the threat of being axed next year.
The annual two-day Basingstoke Live, in War Memorial Park, which attracts 50,000 people, could be scrapped because Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council bosses say they are short of the £27,000 needed to pay for beefed-up security measures.
The news has outraged music fans and some borough councillors, and a petition to save the event has now been launched.
Councillor Jack Cousens, a member of the borough’s community wellbeing committee, which will be discussing Basingstoke Live’s fate next month, said the event is an important part of the town’s cultural calendar.
“The town does come together for it,” said the Brookvale and Kings Furlong Labour councillor. “I believe it is something we should do for people.”
And Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Gavin James has blasted the idea of scrapping the event as an “outrage”.
He added: “The excuse for not running it is lame and pathetic. It is the main summer event in Basingstoke.”
According to a report by borough council economic and community strategy policy manager Diane Hayward on the future of the event, £27,000 released this year for “fencing and extra police costs” will not be available next year. The report, to the community wellbeing committee, recommends putting Basingstoke Live on hold in 2013.
The increased security measures for the weekend festival, which was on July 14 and 15 this year, followed police concerns about growing anti-social behaviour.
At the latest community wellbeing committee meeting, Andy Grove, events manager at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, said Basingstoke Live had become too big. “It is a victim of its own success. It has grown so rapidly year on year,” he said.
Since being launched in 2007, Basingstoke Live’s popularity has grown with up to 50,000 people attending in 2011. And this year, despite 2mm of rain falling over the weekend, 26,000 turned out to see acts such as drum and bass outfit Fabio and Grooverider, and Sunday’s headliner From The Jam.
Basingstoke Live cost the council £70,000, but it made £35,000 back from trade and catering concessions.
But following the fresh budget concerns, council chiefs have been given three options. They are to: l make the festival smaller and keep it free l introduce an admission fee l put Basingstoke Live on hold for 2013, develop Basingstoke Festival – the two weeks of ‘fringe’-style events launched this year – and investigate the possibility of a new music event in 2014.
This year, the first Basingstoke Festival ran from June 22 to July 15, and involved 89 separate events – from Festival Place’s Big Top Extravaganza, the Proteans’ outdoor performances of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, to a demonstration of Guernsey basket weaving at the Whitchurch Silk Mill. Basing-stoke Live was added as the closing act of the two-week borough-wide event.
The council estimates 24,000 people attended Festival events before Basingstoke Live. Festival Place said visitors to the shopping centre on June 24 were the second highest this year for a Sunday.
Twenty five of the 89 events were free, and Cllr Elaine Still, borough Cabinet member for communities, sport and culture, has already confirmed that Basingstoke Festival will be going ahead in 2013.
Laurence Hoare, from Basingstoke-based record company 100% Music, who was responsible for booking many of the 122 acts over the 2012 Live weekend event, said the council can easily put on Basingstoke Live.
“The ‘victim of its own success’ line is rubbish,” he said. “That just does not stack up. We had fewer people in this year because of the weather.”
He added: “I really want to keep it going because it is brilliant for the town. If it does not happen in 2013, it will go forever. We must have it next year.”
Cllr Cousens has launched an online petition as part of the campaign to save Basingstoke Live, and at the time of going to press, it had gathered more than 330 signatures.
He has called on the Conservative-led administration to release cash from the £3.5million budget surplus banked over 2011-12 to pay for the additional security measures.
He said: “In my own view, money from the £3.5m underspend could be used to help Basingstoke Live for one year. Long term, if we want to keep it, we can find the solution.”
He added: “If we allow this to go, like Balloons over Basingstoke, and the carnival, it won’t come back.”
To view and sign the petition, visit www.change.org and search Save Basingstoke Live.