PEOPLE who helped to organise the successful Bexhill Sea Angling Festival were shocked when they heard Rother could withdraw funding for the event next year.
Last Monday, councillors on Rother’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee voted to withdraw cash support for the 2013 Bexhill Sea Angling Festival.
Although the event was organised by Rother District Council’s tourism and regeneration department, the festival would not have gone ahead without the involvement of other local organisations.
These include d The Bexhill Sea Angling Club, local tackle shop Hook Line and Sinker, the Angling Trust, (national governing body for angling), angling media group Sussex Angling Media and other local businesses, who gave up their time and their own money to ensure the success of the Festival.
Tim Macpherson, committee member and owner of Sussex Angling Media, said: “The event attracted an amazing number of people onto the De La Warr lawns on the Saturday of the Festival – 10,000 people attending an event in Bexhill is fantastic.
“They came from all over the country including Hampshire, West Sussex, Gloucestershire and Norfolk as well as thousands of residents.
“It shows that if the right investment is made people will respond.
“Even before the event ended we were already planning how we could improve on it next year and give the council a long term exit strategy by attracting sponsorship. It’s all the more disappointing that we were not consulted by councillors or given the opportunity to present the plans we have in place. If we had their decision might have been different.”
Mr Macpherson told the Observer the committe understands the constraints all councils are under and that the Rother can’t keep writing out a “no strings” cheque every year. Continued success depends on attracting outside commercial funding in order for the council to be able to reduce a long-term commitment.
He said: “The economic impact of bringing 10,000 people into Bexhill in September, extending the town’s tourist season, should not be underestimated especially when you bear in mind that many more than half of these people were not anglers and included families with children. Spending £17,000 to attract those sorts of crowds is a worthwhile investment in any business.”
At a recent angling summit hosted by the Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon, and chaired by the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on angling, George Hollingbery MP, the Bexhill Sea Angling Festival was referred to as an example of what can be achieved to promote the social, economic and health benefits of angling by working with local community groups.
Mr Macpherson said: “What has to be remembered about the event is that it wasn’t just about fishing – don’t forget Billingsgate Seafood Training School’s demonstrations were packed, many of the local traders who had stands were running out of stock because of the demand. The event had a children’s coaching element to it which was oversubscribed and will be expanded to include local schools in 2013 should the event go ahead.”
A spokesperson for Rother District Council said its response remained the same as printed in last week’s Bexhill Observer.
Cllr Carl Maynard, leader of the council, said: “Although we wouldn’t provide money, we would be able to provide some levels of support around venues and other matters.
“Hopefully the community can now take this event forward based on its previous success and cabinet will discuss that recommendation.
“Regretfully we might not be able to offer the level of support some people may want.”
• The Sea Angling Festival Committee hopes put funding plans for future development of the event to Rother District Council. These include attracting outside sponsorship, reducing council commitment and to demonstrate how they can build on the success of the 2012 event.