Monday, November 19, 2012

Basingstoke Live or is it dead?

I sat in a committee last week where Basingstoke Festival was discussed. This Summer saw the first Basingstoke Festival and apart from the odd cancelled event, it showcased local talent and celebrated the diversity of our borough very well.  A personal thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who made the events happen.

It seemed in the Officers report an after thought to mention the bombshell that Basingstoke Live, which has run for several years as the premier free public event, was not going to continue in its current form.

I have sat on the committee for several years and remember the announcement a few years ago that 'Balloons over Basingstoke' was going to be axed, the reason was, we were told, the event had grown tired, Basingstoke live had overtaken it as the Summers main free public event and the money spent on the balloons event would be better spent on an organiser that would bring together several local events under one umbrella, with Basingstoke Live being the big finale.

It split opinion, I had nothing against the Balloons event, but they rarely took off and it rarely lived up to the expectation that our skies would be full of brightly coloured balloons of novelty shapes and sizes. The idea of a Festival sounded like a good swap. More diverse performances appealing to more people, spread across the borough for the same price. All that activity would not only enhance Summer for our residents, but also highlight our main music event - Basingstoke Live across the region.

The Council, without any discussion with the public (or opposition councillors) offered the Community Wellbeing Committee 3 choices;

Down scale the event (I thought the idea was to grow the Festival)
Charge for the free event (We can see the flaw in that one) or
Scrap it for year (If you skip a year, it will turn in to two, then three, then the administration will either hope everyone's forgotten or expect huge credit for when it comes back claiming it is a 'new' event. Alternatively another local Council will organise an event and take all the economic activity away from Basingstoke and we'll never get it back)

The Officers report seemed to promote the final option. In fact the Officers are already behind schedule if we want Basingstoke Live to happen in 2013, so the Council has, to a certain extent, made the decision without any debate or discussion - that is a bloody outrage!

What was missing was option 4. Carry on running the event. We weren't even offered it. Why?

We're told that removing the biggest and best attended event of the Festival will somehow enhance it (like taking the eggs out of omelette will enhance it).
Basingstoke Live has grown too big (successful) - So I assume if no one turned up and it proved to be a big failure, the local Conservatives would carry on with it (PCC elections here to stay then).

It is too expensive to run an event that attracts 45000 people and the Council who underspent more than £3million last year can't find the extra £20k or so to make it safe. (We're told Basingstoke Live costs £104k per annum, offset by £35k income and more is needed to fund security)

At the start of the meeting we were asked whether we had attended any Festival events - I was one of the few that raised my hand. In recent years I have attended the World Party in the Park - brilliant free fun for all the family, lots of stuff to see and do for all ages, the Summers biggest interactive family event (Apparently cancelled for 2013) and Basingstoke live - a live free music festival showcasing local talent and bands, supported by headline acts (not looking good for 2013)

For my family, any many others, that's the Festival gone. Many of the 80 odd events in this years Festival were 'charged' events at the Anvil and Haymarket that would be going on anyway and they simply took advantage of the extra advertising (nothing wrong in that) the Festival generated. The most popular free family events won't be there next year at this rate.

The only thing I'm left wondering is whether any of the above is the real reason. Both World Party in the Park (Eastrop Park) and Basingstoke Live (War Memorial Park) depend on the Old Common for parking. Is our Summer celebration of all that is good about our great Borough being cancelled to make room for a Football Ground that would be better placed at the Leisure Park? It was a risk I highlighted Here

What ever your politics, comment (real names) here if you want Basingstoke Live to continue. I have already had tens of emails on the subject, the more messages I get the greater our chances of keeping Basingstoke Live .


  1. Glad to hear both labour and their youth officer cllr jack and the lib de teams are against this. Sad to see ukip and conservatives are quiet on this subject. We meant to be a cultured town with Mrs miller now culture minister! Was brought here via basingstoke youth movement who are rallying against this.www.Facebook/

  2. Killing off Basingstoke Live would be a terrible mistake and a real loss for the area. I know many people who share this view who will be getting behind the campaign to save one of the best events the town has ever run.