Arts event dropped in face of poor take-up of tickets

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ORGANISERS of an ambitious new business and arts festival for Yorkshire have cancelled the arts programme due to a lack of support.

Businessman Mike Firth hoped to stage a gala dinner and fringe theatre-style event as part of a four-day extravaganza in June.

The dinner for 600 was planned for the Saturday night with performances by Northern Ballet and stars from the West End shows Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera.

This was to have been followed on Sunday with an event showcasing the best of drama, comedy, dance.

But only a few organisations accepted invitations to buy tickets for the dinner, which led Mr Firth to cancel both events.

He said: “I’m disappointed but accept that corporate hospitality budgets have been cut.”

Mr Firth said the dinner will take place at a later date and the Yorkshire International Business Convention will go ahead as planned, featuring the Dalai Lama as headline speaker, although he has already announced that it is the last to be held in Leeds.

The Bridlington leg enjoys much greater support from the East Coast business community and is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Over the past 17 years, Mr Firth has brought a succession of world leaders to Yorkshire including George Bush, Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev.

“We set the bar very high. If we can’t sustain that, it’s time to say, ‘Thanks very much and good night’,” he has said.

This year’s finale at Leeds has already aroused some controversy.

The scheduled appearance of the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet is said to have caused the former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to pull out in case he offended his political connections in China.

Leeds is playing host to the Chinese Olympic team during the summer.

The other speakers at this year’s YIBC on June 15 include retail guru and government advisor Mary Portas, record-breaking athlete Steve Cram, Sir Richard Branson’s special advisor Will Whitehorn, former Cabinet Minister Michael Portillo and the BBC sports presenter Clare Balding.

The Yorkshire Institute of Directors and UK Trade and Investment are co-sponsoring Monday’s programme of activities.

The June 18 event is designed to encourage Yorkshire companies to take the first steps in selling goods and services overseas.

Speakers include Simon Walker, director general of the IoD, Richard Gizbert of broadcaster Al Jazeera, Ronnie Coutts of the Cabinet Office-approved Emergency Planning College and Mark Fitzmaurice of coach Dale Carnegie.

The Yorkshire Post is media partner.