Saltaire Festival in danger of going under, boss says

Caption: Seven Days, Sep 1, Saltaire Festival
Caption: Seven Days, Sep 1, Saltaire Festival
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The organisers of Saltaire Festival have warned the event may have to be cancelled if it does not attract sufficient volunteers and funding.

The nine-day festival has taken place in the World Heritage Site each September since 2003 and attracted 35,000 last year alone.

The event has always been completely reliant on the time and skills of a small group of volunteers, which organisers say has come under pressure in recent years and is currently at an unsustainable level.

The tough economic climate has put further strain on what is a mainly free event, with fewer commercial sponsors and funding from public sector and grant-making bodies falling each year.

Ros Garside, chair of the board of trustees, said that the transient nature of Saltaire’s population made the retention of a dedicated gathering of volunteers tough to come by.

She said: “Saltaire Festival is the best-attended event of its kind in the district. We’re so pleased to have been able to put on such a successful festival for thousands of people. Over the years the festival has grown but has still been successfully run by unpaid volunteers. The core team is barely a dozen strong and only a handful of trustees make up the board.

“What so many people don’t realise is that the festival is a year-round task to plan, organise and fundraise for; many people will have little idea of the amount of work this requires behind the scenes.

“The 2016 festival cost about £60,000 to stage and we’re confident we’ll break even but the challenge of raising this kind of money gets more difficult each year.

“We have no guaranteed funding and it’s down to volunteers to apply for grants, seek sponsors, sell advertising in our programme and on our website, arrange crowdfunding appeals and even shake buckets for street collections - it all counts.”

The board of trustees is holding an open meeting at The Hop in Saltaire at 7.30pm tomorrow to discuss the future of the festival.