Council asked to take £20k risk on 5,000-person Blake festival

Hotham Park would not be suitable for a 5,000-person festival, Arun District Council has ruled
Hotham Park would not be suitable for a 5,000-person festival, Arun District Council has ruled

A charity hoping to host a William Blake-themed festival next month has pleaded with Bognor Town Council to financially back the plans.

Rachel Searle, of the Big Blake Project, hopes cultural events like ‘Blakefest’ would form a crucial part of the town’s regeneration.

Rachel Searle, of the Big Blake Project, right

Rachel Searle, of the Big Blake Project, right

But with the event due to be held on September 17 and 18, the charity lacks a suitable venue and financial backing.

In a request for the town council to underwrite the event to the tune of £20,000, she told the policy and resources committee on Monday: “I would really like it to happen this year and really need support from the town council to underwrite it if it is a public festival.”

Mrs Searle told councillors Arun District Council had declined to grant permission to hold the event at Hotham Park, while West Park was booked.

She claimed Arun leader Gill Brown, in a meeting about the project, ‘didn’t see the connection between Blake and regeneration’.

In response, an Arun spokesman said the council believed Hotham Park was the ‘wrong location’ for the ticketed event, which could attract up to 5,000 people.

They said the council had ‘reluctantly refused’ permission after organisers failed to satisfy concerns raised by police and Hotham Park Heritage Trust.

The spokesman added there was ‘no confusion’ over the link between Blake and regeneration, noting permission may have been granted for a ‘cultural event with poetry reading and similar activities’.

Mrs Searle’s plea was supported by Orchard ward councillor Jan Cosgrove, who described the proposal as an ‘enormously important project’. But committee chairman Adam Cunard said the sum requested would be ‘a massive commitment’ for the council.

The committee requested more details of the event, with the matter referred to full council on September 5.

Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Searle, who pledged to hold a low key event regardless of funding, said: “They are not prepared to invest in culture. In my view, that is the key to regeneration.”