Major Bexhill events ‘in jeopardy unless Rother continues funding’

Bexhill mayor Simon Elford had a go on a Honda Goldwing trike with his wife Tanya at Bexhill Motofest 2016. Photo by Howard Martin SUS-160817-154626001
Bexhill mayor Simon Elford had a go on a Honda Goldwing trike with his wife Tanya at Bexhill Motofest 2016. Photo by Howard Martin SUS-160817-154626001

The organiser of Bexhill Motofest is calling on the council to continue funding the event or risk losing it and others in the town including Roaring 20s.

Rother District Council (RDC) provides £9,000 for new events every year which has been given to the Motofest, Roaring 20s and Festival of the Sea for the past three years to help them get off their feet.

Motofest organiser Michael Howard believes RDC should further its financial support of the popular motorcycle festival past the agreed three-year period as no alternative funding has been found.

“My event is worth around £750,000 to the local economy, bringing thousands of people to the town and filling our B&Bs and restaurants, but the council is basically saying ‘go away, we don’t want you here’,” he said.

“We’ve tried really hard to find alternative sources of funding but without the council’s backing we cannot make it free entry which jeopardises the entire event.”

Mr Martin was given money by the council three years ago to help the Motofest get started and to attract other investors, along with Roaring 20s and Festival of the Sea.

All three have become popular events which millions visiting the town for them, particularly for the Roaring 20s and the signature world-record Charleston dancers attempt.

But Mr Martin claims these events may not happen next year without the council’s backing, and RDC should replicate the support Eastbourne Borough Council provides for Airbourne and Hastings Borough Council does for Pirate Day.

An RDC spokesman said: “As part of our ongoing efforts to increase visitor numbers in Bexhill, we set aside £9,000 each year to support new events.

“The funding is agreed for three years and designed to help events become established and attract backing from other organisations.

“We are delighted to have been able to support three popular events over the past three years – Motofest, Roaring 20s and Festival of the Sea – and look forward to helping new events in future years and boosting tourism in the area.

“We will also continue to assist established events, where possible, with support including the free use of car parks, public land and waste services.”

A sticking point for Mr Martin was that Shining Lights receives £13,000 a year from RDC for the Christmas lights, and queried whether popular events like his could get a similar arrangement.

But the RDC spokesman said that funding is entirely separate from support offered by the council for events.

“The voluntary organisation organises the town’s Christmas lights on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and traders and receives a grant from the council to cover a portion of the costs,” the spokesman said.

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