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Huge new South Hams arts festival planned for 2025

Sunday, 21 April 2024 09:44

By Guy Henderson, local democracy reporter

Follaton House, HQ of South Hams District Council (image courtesy: Daniel Clark/LDRS)

Towns and villages across the district will be involved

Towns and villages across the South Hams will host a massive arts festival in the summer of 2025.

The 10-day festival at the end of June will be held across the five towns – Totnes, Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Salcombe and Ivybridge – as well as in village and communities inbetween.

South Hams Council executive committee voted to back the festival and pledge £32,500 towards underwriting its costs.

Council leader Julian Brazil (Lib Dem, Stokenham) told them: “It’s a challenge and a risk, but it’s a challenge and a risk worth taking.”

The festival will be run by a company called NDP Circus, which delivered a successful Totnes Festival in 2022, and will take climate change and biodiversity as its theme. It will cost a total of £175,000, and aims to attract more than 50,000 people to more that 100 individual events.

Cllr John Birch (Lib Dem, Totnes) told the committee: “There were clearly economic benefits for Totnes in 2022. If we can repeat this throughout the South Hams there will be benefits there too.

“We as a council need to pay more attention to our arts and cultural strategy. It is one of our weaknesses. It could become an annual event, but let’s walk before we start running.”

And Cllr Georgina Allen (Green, Totnes) added: “The Totnes festival was quite remarkable. It succeeded in the almost-impossible task of uniting Totnes after the pandemic. It was a real milestone and we came out of it a better town.”

Cllr John McKay (Lib Dem, West Dart) said the festival should be encouraged to leave a legacy in the form of some lasting urban art, and Cllr Dan Thomas (Lib Dem, Newton and Yealmpton) said it was important that parishes and villages all over the district had a chance to take part.

Cllr Nicky Hopwood (Con, Woolwell) questioned the proposed budgets, but Cllr Birch replied: “Everything we do has an element of risk to it. We are being asked today to approve this in principle, and then we will go away and sort out the details.

“We will make it happen, and in making it happen we will make certain that the risks are minimised.”

And Cllr Brazil said the South Hams could learn from a neighbouring council’s experience with a food and drink festival, which was called off at the last minute when the company behind it collapsed.

He said: “We are not signing a blank cheque. In the very worst scenario we have agreed to £32,500.

“I hope we will support this, although I appreciate there are a lot of risks involved. A similar event planned in Torbay last year cost the council there a lot of money, and nothing happened in the end.”
 

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