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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Lack of suitable venue could see Carlisle's steam fair cancelled

A Cumbrian event with a national reputation may be cancelled this year if it cannot find a new home.

Steam fair photo
Mel Forster and Graham Forster, who organise the fair

The Border City Steam Fair has been held at Rickerby Park in Carlisle for the past few years but a decision by the city council is forcing it to move elsewhere.

The event organiser Graham Forster said the council’s offer to let them stage it in Bitts Park is not realistic.

“The site is a fraction of the area we use at the moment. It’s a very successful show, you can’t make it smaller,” he said

“Exhibitors move around the country from fair to fair. You can’t say to them we only want some of you, the rest can take a running jump.”

Mr Forster says some stallholders and traders are losing confidence as confirmation of the show is delayed.

“I think some of them are starting to look at other venues. They’re worried the event won’t go ahead and they’ll lose money over the Spring Bank Holiday”.

The council took the decision to accept funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The higher level stewardship agreement will give the council £228,000 over 10 years but on the condition the park is not used for events that might damage it.

If Rickerby Park had been excluded from the plan, the council would have lost between £4,000 and £8,000 of the allocation each year.

Mr Forster doesn’t think the decision makes financial sense.

He said: “We raise thousands of pounds for charity each year but there’s also the local economy to consider.

“If you get 10,000 people coming to the fair, they don’t have to spend much over the weekend to get to £1 million. And there’s the hotels, the shops. The steam fair fills the hotels around Stanwix.”

Councillor Elsie Martlew, the environment portfolio holder at Carlisle City Council, said she has sympathy for the steam fair organisers.

But she added: “The problem is one of the key criteria for the stewardship agreement was that the land can’t be used for heavy machinery. The weather hasn’t helped but the event has damaged the land”.

In the meantime Graham Forster continues to try to find a suitable site.

Anyone who can help Graham can contact him, or his daughter Mel, on 01228 792485 or 07785 794878.

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