Letters: Keeping Riverside is in best interests of town

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SIXTY attended the productive Riverside public meeting, but only Stamford residents were allowed to vote for or against its revival.

Forty-six voted ‘for’, one vote was ‘against’, the thrust of the meeting being that this was the major annual youth event, to be strongly supported. But foreign, anti-social elements must be eliminated or controlled. The festival had, however, outgrown itself and the town.

Speakers recommended entry by advance booking of limited and numbered tickets, only sold through the arts centre booking office.

This would exclude attendance of on-the-day revellers, who last year hid their superstore purchases of beer and spirits in St Peter’s Vale hedges, later to relieve themselves or fall dead-drunk on garden paths there and in the Warenne Keep precincts, this, despite the provision by management of ample portable toilets on the river bank margin.

Management could cover the cost of policing, control and reinstatement of The Meadows area, for which, alone, they were responsible, by charging an entry fee level that matches those willingly paid elsewhere for similar events?

But areas outside The Meadows had suffered badly: Bath Row, Castle Street and Lane (with St Peter’s Green above) and even the inner town areas off Sheep Market up to Red Lion Square, plus St John’s and St Mary’s Street. All these suffered the indescribable abuse and mess to which Glenda Parsley strongly and rightly objected.

They suffer lesser but equally unpleasant abuse at other weekends, which the police no longer cover adequately. This is the major problem that the new town council, after May 5 elections, has to take in hand.

Return to the Riverside Festival – Bath Row and the cattle market (car park end) of Vence Walk are ideal as the sole and formally policed entry and exit points for all ticket holders, but that leaves the key question between town council and Riverside management unanswered: How is the extra money to be raised for the policing of the public areas directly affected and as certainly outside festival management control?

The suggestion was made that the shops, hotels, pubs and commercial interests affected, on which Stamford’s future prosperity depends – and who need more protection than they currently get from the police – should be asked to volunteer a substantial sum towards the bill.

It is no answer to say that ‘they get no benefit from the Riverside Festival, because they do; ticket holders will come early to the festival, and will certainly return on discovering the quality and the growing diversity of hostelries, eating places, theatres, music and entertainment venues, the astonishing breadth of shopping opportunities for clothes, the new furnishing and domestic outlets, which now include new jewellers, specialist wine-merchants and cheese vendors!

It is unanswerably in the business interest of all these commercial interests to show off the town at its new best.

Stamford is certainly an ancient market town rather than a county town, but it is becoming the best, the most diverse and the most attractive market town south of the border, not just for Peterborough residents.

DAVID DE GALE

All Saints Street,

Stamford

I attended a meeting at Stamford Arts Centre on Saturday, March 19 called to discuss the future of the Riverside Festival.

The mayor represented the town council and several Riverside Festival committee members were also present.

Both parties took questions from members of the public

It soon became apparent that the main reason the music festival will not take place this year is because of some new terms and conditions that Stamford Town Council has imposed on the Riverside Festival, in particular that it provides fully audited accounts.

This requirement would make the Riverside Festival financially unviable in its present format.

When questioned as to why this level of scrutiny had been voted on, considering that even registered charities do not have to produce fully audited accounts, the mayor simply stated that council members felt there was a need for openness and transparency where public money is involved.

Jenny Collins, a director of the Riverside Festival countered that even the Treasury doesn’t recommend or advise provision of fully audited accounts.

Odd too, that when another questioner asked for minutes of the meeting at which these new terms and conditions were voted on, there was no assurance they would be forthcoming from the mayor – in fact he managed to avoid responding to this request at all.

After the meeting I spoke to the person who had requested minutes of the meeting in question.

What he told me was quite illuminating. Apparently there are no minutes.

The reason for this is that a “closed” meeting was called.

A closed meeting is one for which minutes are not available to the general public due to the confidential nature of the subject matter under discussion.

Closed meetings, he told me, are usually called for reasons such as those relating to national security.

This can only lead to one conclusion: the town council, consisting of individuals elected by residents of Stamford to act in their interests do not adhere to their own principles of openness and transparency.

Why did the council call a closed meeting to discuss and vote on this relatively insignificant issue? It does rather beg the question in whose interests are they really acting?

Irrespective of how you feel about the Riverside Festival, isn’t it time we called this publicly elected body to account and voted them out in May?

Julie Fancourt

Casterton Road,

Stamford