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Monday, 01 September 2014

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No venue means end of the road for Border City Steam Fair

An event which has attracted thousands of visitors will not go ahead this year after organisers failed to find a new venue.

Steam Fair photo
Border City Steam Fair in Rickerby Park

The man leading the Border City Steam Fair says previous events have generated at least £1.5m for the area’s economy, with hotels fully booked and shops enjoying extra trade.

Graham Forster says that money will now be lost with the showcase of steam machinery unlikely to be revived.

It has been held over the past four years in Carlisle’s Rickerby Park, last year attracting about 7,000 people and 50 exhibitors from all over the country.

But that venue has now become available because of the terms imposed through a Government grant given to Carlisle City Council.

Despite speaking to 14 farmers about the possibility of using pieces of their land, Mr Forster has been unable to find a suitable site for the three-day event.

He said: “It’s an absolutely devastating decision to have had to come to after all the hard work that’s been put in.

It’s ridiculous that they are so short of money in Carlisle that they’ve got to have this few thousand pounds. I think everybody should write to the council chief executive and ask him what entertainment he’s going to put on for people who have enjoyed the steam fair .”

Rickerby Park cannot be used after the city council accepted a grant from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The agreement will give the authority £228,000 over 10 years, but on the condition that the park is not used for events involving heavy machinery.

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

“People we have spoken to so far are really disappointed we’ve had to cancel. There were about 50 people involved in pulling it all together,” Mr Forster added.

Because those showing their steam machines and stallholders will find other venues to go to for the dates over the Whit holiday weekend in May when it would normally held this year, he fears it would be hard to entice them to come back in future – putting the brakes on hopes of reviving it in future.

Elsie Martlew, the city councillor responsible for the environment, said: “It’s disappointing to hear that the organisers of the steam fair have taken the decision to cancel the event, especially as we, and others, offered up alternative venues.

“During these hard economic times, we could not pass up the opportunity to accept £220,000 of external funding.”

Previous steam fairs have led to donations totalling £12,000 being handed over to charities.

Other events at Whit weekend include Carlisle Music City, which is supported by the city council.

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