Lowestoft: Seafront Air Festival To End

Poor weather is being blamed for a drastic loss of income at this year's Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival which has resulted in the announcement that it will almost certainly be the last.

A meeting of the organising committee last week was told that the weekend event had failed to raise the sums necessary to make it a viable proposition to go ahead with an airshow next year. 

In fact it was only because the organisers had a small wet weather contingency reserve fund that all the costs for the event could just be met at all - leaving the reserves at rock bottom. 

Managing Director Paul Bayfield said "It is with much regret and a lot of sadness that I have to report that we do not have sufficient funds to go ahead with an Air Show next year. The event has been running for sixteen years and has only survived that long because of the wonderful support that has been forthcoming. Unfortunately this year we have become another victim of the vagaries of the British weather." 

In 2004 a social enterprise company Lowestoft Sea Front Air Festival Ltd was set up to take over the event which had previously been organised by Waveney District Council. When the not for profit company took on the event it was intent on it being run by the community for the benefit of the community. 

Mr Bayfield said "We knew that 2012 was going to be a challenge and would take us into unchartered territory. The event was moved to a weekend in June for the first time this year to avoid a clash with the Olympic Games. Although we realised that there were some risks associated with this decision we were keen not to have a 'fallow year' as this might have meant losing momentum and more importantly our 'event critical' pool of volunteers. 

This year's show took place on the 23rd and 24th June and was considered the best show ever by many in terms of the flying displays and was very well received in even the most discerning circles! 

However putting on a show of this quality does not come cheap and the overall budget was £300,000, a figure that has remained unchanged for many years." 

An Airshow spokesman said "As usual we encouraged sponsors, advertisers and traders to support us. We also introduced a new initiative by offering our visitors a free event programme with redeemable vouchers to the value of over £170 inside, in exchange a £3 fee." 

Reviewing the attendance he added: "Saturday was the most successful day in terms of visitor fees, and at the end of the first day we were on budget. However, on the Sunday we were victims of the worst of British weather with only around a third of our anticipated visitors attending. 

Accordingly our entrance and parking fees were extremely low that day. A total of £85,000 was collected at the entrances over the weekend - a sum which was not helped by £80 of fake notes and £305 of counterfeit coins which had to be omitted. All in all this has meant that we are not in a good place financially, as we will have insufficient money in the contingency fund to risk going ahead next year." 

Director Brian Hunter who has responsibility for stewarding and volunteer support said "Although many members of the public will be saddened by this news, our thoughts must also go to our charitable partners who have, in rain and shine, provided vital help for the aIrshow. 

Their financial reward has become part of their annual fund raising budgets. We are so proud to have had their commitment to the show over the years, and are pleased that we have managed to cascade back almost £1/4m to their good causes. 

Mr. Bayfield ended by saying "It really is impossible to thank everybody who has been involved with the event - there are just too many. Over the past few years we have built up a wonderful team comprising a large number of people who have given of their time and expertise to put on such a well organised show. 

We would still dearly like to think that a benefactor or a generous sponsor or sponsors would come forward and I would invite anyone who maybe able to help with offers of collateral to contact me - but we have to be realistic and we need to warn all the loyal supporters of the dire situation. 

We have until the end of September, when bids for RAF aircraft have to be submitted - to find a saviour. We have sought additional sponsorship from both national as well as local businesses in the past without success - so reluctantly we have to bow to what seems to be inevitable - that this year's airshow was the last."

MD Paul Bayfield Speaks To Heart's Holly Jones

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