BASINGSTOKE’S summer music festival, B LOVE, is ‘unlikely’ to be going ahead this year, a senior councillor has confirmed.

Last week, cabinet member for communities, culture and partnerships, Cllr Simon Bound, told members of the community, environment and partnerships committee that the coronavirus pandemic had caused ‘uncertainty’ over whether large-scale events would be possible by July.

He said: “I think it’s fair to say, with the uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s important for us as a borough council to explore our options for safely delivering music and outdoor arts this summer.

“We’re at the start of a vaccination programme, but we don’t know when restrictions will be lifted. Due to the uncertainty of social distancing restrictions, we need to be in a place to keep Basingstoke and Deane safe.

“The borough council is working with artists and other arts organisations to explore how it can hold virtual and socially distanced events. However, it is unlikely that crowds will be able to return for B LOVE in 2021. While we work to investigate how the festival can be safely delivered, in all probability, for B LOVE the next event will be in summer 2022.”

At the meeting, held virtually on January 20, members of the committee discussed options for continuing to deliver arts in the town despite both the pandemic, and concerns about finances.

Cllr Bound said that the wider Basingstoke Festival, which will run this year from Friday June 25 and Sunday July 11, will likely involve a combination of virtual events and, depending on guidance, some small-scale live events.

He added: “Cllr Simon Bound said: “We know the Covid-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for residents across the borough and we are keen to provide a fun-filled programme of entertainment this summer that everyone can look forward to.

“But ultimately, the safety of our residents must come first and we are continuing to monitor the latest government guidance and are working with art organisations and members of the arts and culture industry to understand how we may be able to safely deliver the annual Basingstoke Festival.

“We are very lucky to have talented artists, performers and arts organisations in our borough. I am pleased that we are able to bring residents an exciting selection of virtual arts and culture through our Art in Unusual Times programme which we hope will bring some much-needed entertainment to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes.”

As previously reported by the Gazette, the council has also been searching for potential partners to take over the running of the B LOVE festival due to the “strain” it has on finances and resources.

Applications from third parties are now closed, but no decision has been made by officers as yet.

Cllr Bound said: “Cultural events have formed part of Basingstoke and Deane’s landscape for many years. B LOVE supports the local music industry, provides a platform for showcasing the best in Basingstoke. It has improved from previous incarnations and it is an excellent opportunity for community residents and visitors to come together in the summer months to celebrate Basingstoke’s rich arts and culture.

“The council wants to see the event develop further, into a sustainable and resilient annual festival of live music and entertainment.”

Members raised concerns including how the loss of control will impact on influence over the climate commitments, tickets costs, and existing contracts with artists attached to the festival.

Summing up the discussion, committee chair Cllr Paul Gaskell said:“Obviously we are in a pandemic situation and that poses a risk for this year’s event. There’s also financial implications as well which pose a risk.

“There’s a lot of people concerned about loss of control if we hand it over to a third party, but there’s lots of positive points about handing it over to a third party as well. Somebody who is an expert in this would probably be better at maintaining it than we would be as a council but, again, we need assurance that it’s maintained as a local event.”

Officers agreed to provide members with the criteria advertised to potential partners, but said they could not disclose names of providers that aren’t selected.