Threat to future of major arts festival

Anyone for tennis perform on centre stage last year. (Picture: Andrew Carpenter/001384-64)
Anyone for tennis perform on centre stage last year. (Picture: Andrew Carpenter/001384-64)

AN ARTS festival which has become one of the biggest events in the Harborough calendar could be gone forever unless £20,000 of new sponsorship money is found.

Organisers of Arts Fresco have called on businesses in the town to show their support for the event so it can be staged in Welland Park next May.

MHS Punafore perform along Welland Park. (Picture: Andrew Carpenter/001384-72)

MHS Punafore perform along Welland Park. (Picture: Andrew Carpenter/001384-72)

And they warn the event, which has attracted thousands of people to Harborough every year for the past decade, is at risk if the cash is not found.

The free festival has been sponsored in the past by Joules Clothing and supported by grants from the Arts Council.

But Arts Fresco chairman Hazel Cook said the festival needs to broaden the sources of its funding or risk losing existing sponsorship.

It has launched the Show Your Love appeal in a bid to secure support from town businesses.

Mrs Cook said: “Arts Fresco’s free programme is made possible by the generosity of a huge number of local people who donate their time and energy, but remains heavily dependent upon funding and sponsorship to pay for the high-quality artists we all enjoy.

“Local business sponsorship and the income we earn as a result of selling tickets and programmes are key to unlocking essential funding and if we are to welcome the return of this much-admired festival, now is the time to show your love.”

Launched in 2001, the festival was held in the town centre for its first 10 years until it was moved to Welland Park in 2011 and expanded to a three-day event with a mixture of free and ticketed shows.

Traditionally held each September, organisers this year announced it would move to a new May date for 2013. A scaled-down version of the event was held when the Olympic Torch relay visited town in July.

Mrs Cook said organisers wanted increased community involvement in next year’s relaunched event, with local groups invited to join the usual array of street acts, and more workshops being planned.

They also hope to introduce more acts back to the town centre, though the festival will continue to be predominantly based in the park.

The district council’s leader Cllr Michael Rook and Harborough Chamber of Trade have pledged support to the event, she added.

Chamber president Pete Whelan said: “I think there’s a possibility for businesses to take a positive approach to this, to get involved and to engage with Arts Fresco.

“I would urge them to do so.”

Natasha Walker, general manager at Harborough’s Three Swans Hotel, said: “I think Arts Fresco is excellent for the town.

“It does bring in the additional footfall and it showcases Harborough as a fabulous place to visit.

“If they were to bring it back to the town I think they’d get even more support.”

District councillor Blake Pain said: “The council will continue to support Arts Fresco. It’s valued by businesses and there’s a financial benefit as well as a social one.”

To support the festival contact Mrs Cook on 01858 434172 or visit