Crisis talks have taken place to discuss the future of Rickmansworth Festival after costs of the running the festival have risen exponentially.
On Tuesday, September 13, the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust (RWT), along with representatives from supporters of the festival and Three Rivers District Council (TRDC), met to discuss the challenges facing the festival and to solicit ideas on how to ensure its survival.
2023 marked 30 years since the first ever festival. The festival used to have direct financial support from TRDC but that has been reduced over the years and has left RWT responsible for sourcing most of the money.
The cost of putting on the festival was £15,600 back in 2000. That has now risen to a whopping £73,000. Power distribution alone cost £28,000 last year.
This huge increase in costs has been paralleled by a dramatic increase in the number of people attending the now iconic community event, one that has eclipsed the much smaller canal festival which it originally started as.
The festival obtains income from several areas, chiefly sponsorship and grants and catering franchises. The trust has to at least break even or they risk bankrupting the society.
Alongside rapidly increasing costs, the trust faces a catalogue of other problems including difficulties in sourcing sponsorships; the increased complexity of admin as the size of the festival has increased, and a lack of volunteers to help make sure the festival runs smoothly.
Long standing volunteers are ‘not getting any younger’ say organisers, and a small team is being burdened with huge amounts of work.
Organisers say that charging entrance fees in the past has caused bad feeling amongst residents and has been a logistical nightmare which is why the trust now operate a donation model, making them dependent on the generosity of punters.
The festival has been well supported by local companies in the past but due to lost income during the pandemic, businesses now say they have to tighten their belts and can no longer afford to support the event. Getting the attention of bigger companies to discuss the event has proved difficult.
The beer tents at the festival generate a sizeable portion of the income but policing entrances to discourage attendees from bringing in their own alcohol is often a source of conflict.
As comparable festivals struggling with similar problems have eventually packed up and disappeared over the past few years, the question remains as to how Rickmansworth Festival can continue.
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