The iconic Rickmansworth Festival will not take place in 2024, the organisers have announced.
Increasing bills took the cost of hosting the event to more than £70,000 last year, with the organisers calling on the community for donations to keep it running.
Ahead of Christmas, representatives from the Rickmansworth Festival Team attended a meeting hosted by Three Rivers District Council regarding the recent implementation of an Asbestos Management Plan for the Aquadrome.
The plan has designated the Aquadrome as a no-dig zone, meaning that penetrating the ground on the site is prohibited. This includes digging, raking, staking or any activity which could erode or expose anything below the ground surface. It would preclude the use of stakes for fixing marquees or gazebos, and any vehicle movements on the grassed areas of the site would also be a concern.
Any hirer of the ground would also need to pay for appropriate monitoring before and after the event at a cost of between £5,000 and £8,000 per day for two days of monitoring (a total of £10,000 to £16,000).
Dr David Montague, festival director and chairman of the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust, said: “I am afraid Rickmansworth Waterways Trust has had no choice but to make the difficult decision to cancel the event for 2024 and no festival will be possible with these requirements in place.
“TRDC stated that they were happy for the festival to go ahead as long as the conditions of the management plan could be met. However, the reality is that the management plan makes it impossible for a non-commercial, volunteer-led festival to proceed with an event that uses the Aquadrome.
“This is a really sad day for our community and I feel for all the other charities, community organisations and small businesses that have lost an opportunity to promote themselves. Thank you for all your help over many years since our very first event in 1993 and for contributing towards a great event. It will be sadly missed.”
A Three Rivers District Council spokesperson said: “The council has been eager to continue working with the organisers of the Rickmansworth Festival to ensure this popular local event can go ahead, but public safety must always be our first concern. Owing to the known presence of asbestos and the update of our Asbestos Management Plan, the Aquadrome has had to be designated a no dig zone. As such, extra consideration would need to be given to the equipment used for the festival so that nothing is staked into the ground which has the potential to disturb any asbestos buried underground. There would also be additional post-event cleaning requirements, which event organisers would need to budget for. The council met festival organisers in December and offered advice and additional support, including funding for the current year, but any decisions on the future of the festival are and remain those of its organisers. It is possible for the Rickmansworth Festival to go ahead with appropriate mitigation and the Aquadrome remains a safe environment for general day to day use.”
Photo credit: Les Mead