This year’s successful Huddersfield Food and Drink Festival, which was enjoyed by 110,000 people, could prove to be the last.
Vernon O’Reilly, chairman of the Board of Huddersfield Partnership, which organises the event said: “I don’t think there will be a Food and Drink Festival next year.
“We don’t have the funds. Unfortunately these events are really expensive to put on.”
Major sponsors such as John Smith’s have have decided against renewing their contract have made the festival, which is one of the best-known in Yorkshire and which has run every year since 1999,
Mr O’Reilly said: “We have lost our three year deal with them, 2015 was the last year.
“It’s a shame that we have have arrived at this juncture in the road.
“This year we were contemplating not doing the festival.”
It may seem bizarre to the thousands of people who last weekend enjoyed four days of fun in the sun in St George’s Square, but the £145,000 cost of organising the festival is hard to bear for the Partnership.
It is a not-for-profit organisation that works to improve the town’s profile by working with Kirklees Council.
Mr O’Reilly, who is having to make the Partnership’s festival manager Karen Hobson and finance officer, Jacqueline Speight, redundant later this month, said he hopes, along with Board members, to find out on Wednesday - from Ms Hobson - how the festival fared financially.
He said: “I am disappinted that a company like John Smith’s/Heineken have decided to pull back from giving us that sponsorship because that has helped towards the failure of the Food and Drink Festival.
“The council have pulled the plug as well.
“We have had to rely on our reserves and they have now gone. I am hoping that we will break even this time around.
“The cost of waste collection alone is £15,000. The council have a contract with SITA and that was their contribution towards the festival. They also helped towards organising the management of things.
“We don’t want it to stop because we don’t have the funds to do it. We are a not-for-profit organisation and the council doesn’t have the funds to throw at it.
“We have the trademark rights to the festival and need an event company to come in and take control of it with the Partnership and the council retaining overall control.”
He said this year such a top-notch event management company from the Midlands provided some logistical assistance and were asked to take a look with a view to them potentially taking control of future Huddersfield Food and Drink Festivals.
Mr O’Reilly added: “We were oversubscribed for this year’s event.
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“We could have taken over the whole of John William Street up to Nandos and filled it with local traders and we might have broken even or even made some money but unfortunately we couldn’t get permission from the council.
“They said, logistically, that would have shut down that part of town and affected buses passing along it etc.”
He added that although the Partnership had lost 50% of its membership over recent years it was still very much alive and was set to get an infusion of new blood.
The long term hope is that Huddersfield will become a Business Improvement District like Leeds and Sheffield – a defined area within which businesses are required to pay an additional tax or lvey to fund projects in the area.
If this happened, and it would take several years to come about, then the town would have a very bright future indeed.
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman says he is determined to save the festival’s future and will do whatever he can to ensure its survival.