FESTIVAL-GOERS will have to pay to get into Basingstoke Live for the first time this year in a move dubbed a ‘huge risk’.

The decision to introduce the charge was confirmed by Councillor Terri Reid, the borough council’s chief for arts and heritage last week.

The idea behind charging an entry fee for the first time in the festival’s 12-year history is to generate more funds to bring bigger names to the showcase held at War Memorial Park.

Despite insisting that charging entry to the two-day music festival would help it grow, there has been unrest about the borough council’s proposal with fears about losing the essence of the event.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Councillor Gavin James, in whose Eastrop ward the festival takes place, said introducing the charge was a huge risk.

Cllr James said: “I can’t see the benefits of rushing this decision this year. I understand the idea of wanting to get bigger acts, but we should have taken a year to make this decision when we had a better understanding if people would pay.

“We had all the information from people who got tickets last year, so surely it would have been easy to get a consensus of whether people will pay for those bigger acts.”

He added: “This is a huge risk, it could be a roaring success and we see more numbers coming or it could be a damp squib. I just don’t understand the rush.”

The decision report indicates tickets for adults would cost £10 per day, with weekend tickets priced at £15.

Though the main aim is to bring in bigger artists to Basingstoke, therefore potentially bringing more music lovers to the town, the borough council said the event would still be first and foremost a platform for local acts and artists.

Cllr Reid said: “This supports our vision of a borough positively known for arts and culture; a place where arts are an integral part of Basingstoke and Deane’s identity and reputation, positioning the borough as an attractive place full of cultural vibrancy.

“We want to make it a much better experience for everyone in attendance as well as the bands playing.”

The report notes the introduction of an entry fee will bring in an estimated income of £123,000 to the borough council, which will go back into arts in the town.

The report also notes: “If this change does not take place, the event runs the risk of becoming stagnant and be less attractive to residents and visitors to the borough.”

Cllr Reid added: “There is a real buzz around the organisation of this year’s event already, and with that little bit of extra money it means that promoters can book higher calibre bands and pay them a bit more.”

Basingstoke Live is the last event of the annual Basingstoke Festival.