Radio Sandwell Local News

Brum festival Artsfest is axed in bid to save cash

2013-02-11 00:15:53


Birmingham city council has announced plans to scrap the annual free arts festival and replace it with a cheaper event.

Every September since 1997 musicians, dancers, actors, painters and performers have gathered at venues throughout the city centre to put on free shows under the Artsfest banner.

Under the council's new draft budget the event, which many involved in the Birmingham arts scene admit had 'lost its way', is to be dumped.

Yesterday the Mail reported that the council is being forced to slash more than £100 million off the budget, which is leading to huge service cuts, and 1,000 redundancies.

One victim is Artsfest which is said to have attracted 200,000 to 250,000 visitors to the city centre a year, but some claimed the wide range of events and venues left it sprawling.

Council deputy leader Coun Ian Ward (Lab, Shard End) has promised that a new festival will be set up, at lower cost to the council taxpayer.

The first weekend in September, when Artsfest has traditionally been held, will see the Library of Birmingham open with an arts and cultural festival - although the combined budget has been cut by £250,000, followed by the new festival in 2014.

He said: "It has been decided to roll the arts festival into a festival for the opening of the new library on September 3 and I have spoken to the major arts organisations in Birmingham, and the Arts Council about putting together a new festival to provide a showcase for the best that Birmingham can offer."

"Last year's Cultural Olympiad in Birmingham included several inspirational outdoor arts events and was a resounding success."

He said that the celebrations for the Library, currently being planned, would take a similar approach to the Olympic festival. It is thought that the Arts Council has shown an interest in match-funding a new festival which could ensure its continuation while saving the council money.

Artsfest currently costs the council £130,000 to stage - that subsidy will be reduced to £80,000 for the new event from 2014.

Conservative councillor Philip Parkin, the former leisure, sport and culture scrutiny committee chairman, welcomed the decision - as long as the replacement festival is up to scratch.

He said: "ArtsFest was long overdue a revamp and needs to be much more tightly focussed."

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