Fears over future of the Cheltenham Festival of Performing Arts
THE oldest festival in Cheltenham is under threat again, two years after the Gloucestershire Echo helped to save it.
Organisers have expressed fears about the long-term future of the cash-strapped Cheltenham Festival of Performing Arts.
It comes only a couple of years after the organisers struck a compromise with the borough council.
In 2010 they agreed they could continue to hire the Town Hall for the set price of £10,800 until 2014.
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The deal followed a five-month campaign by supporters of the event, which was led by the Echo.
But new fears have been raised about keeping the festival going beyond next year.
The festival costs about £20,000 to run, with more than half of the cost going to the rental of the Town Hall, which used to be free for use.
Festival president Robert Wilson said a lack of funds offered them no long-term stability.
He said: "Last year was really a critical year for us because we've had to raise money to rent the Town Hall for the first time.
"This year, we are more prepared for it, but as for the future, I'm afraid we might struggle to make it.
"Performing arts are part of a very important culture here in Cheltenham, and we all need to help save it."
Cheltenham Borough Council started charging for the festival's use of the Town Hall from this year.
The festival was forced to pay £24,000 in 2012 before a petition by the Echo reduced that figure to £10,800.
The current agreement with the council will last until 2014.
Mr Wilson said: "It really is the local festival.
"We have been here a long time, and it's a tradition that we have to continue with.
"I'm worried about any additional costs the council might put on the rental of the Town Hall after our agreement ends."
The festival has been running since 1926, is mostly run by volunteers, and funded mainly by low-price entry fees.
It used to be called the Cheltenham Competitive Festival, and is a collection of more than 300 acts every year.
Held every year in May, it contains a variety of classes including dance, drama, music, and vocal classes.
Mr Wilson, also the former mayor of Cheltenham from 1993-1994, said: "We've had problems raising enough funds, and although we are all right for 2013, I'm worried about the year after."