ORGANISERS of the Huddersfield Food and Drink Festival have defended “rocketing” fees.
They argue that the increases of up to 150% for exhibitors are essential if the festival is to continue.
But the increases have angered a Huddersfield restaurant manager who attends the festival and a Kirklees councillor.
Both feel the rise in charges will hit the festival, which has grown over recent years to become a major summer event.
The organisers, the Huddersfield Town Centre Partnership, has defended the charges. They are no longer funded by Kirklees Council and have to cover the festival costs.
They also revealed the event has made a loss over the past 11 years, despite growing numbers of people attending.
Cathy Burger, of the partnership, said: “The festival has made a loss over the last 11 years and last year that loss was £10,000. But up to last year we were part of Kirklees Council and they picked up many of the costs.
“Now we are on our own and we have to be self-sufficient. The Huddersfield festival has always charged far less than other similar events around the country and although we have put up prices over the years, this year we have to put them up much more.
“They are big increases but the costs are growing all the time. The more popular the festival becomes, the more we have to spend on staffing and security and rubbish collection.
“If it cannot cover its costs then the festival may not continue.”
But Paul Wood, of The Keys Restaurant, in Kirkgate, fears the rises are too high.
“Last year we paid £636 for a stand at the exhibition, including electricity. This year, we are being asked for £1,152 including power for the same size of stall.
“And some stallholders are being asked for £1,680 for what are now deemed ‘premium’ stalls, which were previously £636.
“I can honestly say I am astounded by the increase in fees for standing at the festival.
“There are increases of around 70% for average pitches and 150% upwards for the now designated ‘premium’ pitches.
“The festival was being lauded as a huge success. If things are so good, why are they so bad?
“I read with interest the Examiner articles in its current campaign regarding ‘Town Centre in Crisis’ and fear price rises like this will do nothing to help improve things.”
Clr Christine Stanfield, who chairs the Huddersfield Area Committee, said she too was appalled by the price rises.
“I can understand the need to put up prices but not to this level.
“I am sure people would have put up with rises of 10 or 15% but not at this level. We are in danger of killing off a good event.”
A Kirklees spokesman said: “The council has not reduced its support for the festival and involves in such things as cleaning the area and festival security. However, the festival has grown in popularity and is now considerably bigger and the cost of running it has grown.”
This year’s four-day event runs from August 9-12.