A £10,000 cash injection from St Annes Town Council has come to the rescue of the town’s Kite Festival.
The Festival, which has grown in just five years to become the biggest attraction of its kind in the UK, faced a real threat of not going ahead this year because of rising costs.
The two-day event was worth an estimated £1m to the local economy last year after attracting more than 30,000 people - and after a plea for help by the organisers, town councillors decided unanimously to make the one-off five-figure contribution.
To ensure the Town Council can also continue its support for other events, it will mean an increase for the town’s council tax payers of around 3p a week for Band D households.
But town mayor Coun Cheryl Little insists it will be worth it to secure the future of an event which has put St Annes – and particularly the delights of its beach – on the international as well as national map.
After the Kuwaiti national kiting team brought a first international flavour to the Festival last year, the event has attracted interest from even further afield, including kiters from Singapore, New Zealand and the USA.
But Festival founder and organiser Pat May said financial concerns had placed a genuine threat over its future.
“It is now the number one kiting event in the UK but as the Festival has got bigger, so have the bills,” he said.
“The costs of essential infrastructure items such as insurance, the arena, parking and ambulance cover cost between £5,000 and £7,000 out of a total staging cost of up to £15,000.
“We are always on the lookout for sponsors and we are delighted that local company Excel Fostering is backing us generously this year, while we also have £2,500 coming from Fylde Council after an innovation grant of £5,000 from them last year.
“But the £10,000 from the Town Council is what we really needed to allow us to build a platform for future years.
“We have some really exciting plans for this year and this grant will help us cover essential costs this time and help look to a big future for the event, although more financial backing is always welcome.”
The Festival, which started in 2012 and had traditionally been held in late July, has been switched the first weekend in September this year because of tide times - and Pat says the organisers aim to make the most of that.
“We aim to have Friday evening kiting for the first time,” he said. “The dates are set to coincide with the switch-on of Blackpool Illuminations and hope to attract some of the same visitors on the Fylde coast for that.
“We will also again have music on the beach on the Saturday and the Sunday while the kiting is going on.”
Coun Little said: “It is essential for the local and visitor economy that the Kite Festival continues as a successful event.
“This funding will provide a buffer for this year and ensure that this event will continue to prosper for generations to come.”
The town mayor added that, along with supporting the Kite Festival, the budget will allow the Town Council to continue its programme supporting the town’s economy including the St Annes Enterprise Partnership, Christmas lights, St Annes in Bloom, the Youth Council, allotments, the Carnival and the Food Festival.
“The increasing number of events bring visitors to the town, improving our economy and enhancing our quality of life,” added Coun Little.
“Like all councils, we are faced with a reduction in finance from central government, compounded this year by a reduced grant of more than 55 per cent.
“By using £18,000 of the Council’s general reserves, we are substantially reducing the increase in our council tax precept.
“We therefore thought it prudent and acceptable to ask for 3p per week to maintain our dedicated and community focused work.
“With only a small team of staff, our 12 councillors work hard for the people of St Annes and take no financial remuneration.
“We have no wish to cut the service that we give to the town and indeed will likely have to take on more responsibilities in the future.
“We can’t provide ‘something for nothing’ but we can do it for a minimum and that is what we have decided upon. We are looking forward to a great year for St Annes, the continued success of the Kite Festival and the ongoing positive climb we are on.
“Importantly, this small increase will assist in the delivery of the St Annes Neighbourhood Development Plan, which includes tree planting, an enhancement of the town’s gateways and a series of covenants that will secure and protect our green spaces.”