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Shock as Ludlow Arts Festival is axed

South Shropshire | News | Published:

Ludlow Arts Festival will not go ahead next year, organisers revealed today in a shock announcement.

After what seemed like a triumphant return for the 50-year-old festival this year, the team behind the revitalised event has said it will not happen in 2015 – and there are no current plans to revive it in the future.

Ludlow's Shakespeare and Arts Festivals, which run one after the other across two weeks in June and July, are a major annual highlight of the town's calendar, drawing tens of thousands of visitors from across the region and beyond.

The festivals hit financial trouble in 2011, but were brought back for what was billed as the biggest and best ever events this year, after a smaller "stop-gap" festival in 2013.

This year saw a major Shakespeare production at Ludlow Castle for the first time in two years, with a specially-commissioned outdoor run of As You Like It put on by Stafford Gatehouse Theatre.

A host of big names such as Ken Dodd, Jim Davidson and David Essex also performed at the castle as part of the Arts Festival week.

But despite ticket sales beating the loss-making 2013 festival, organisers behind both festivals, as well as the owners of Ludlow Castle, agreed that such a large-scale event had not been successful enough, and was simply not "commercially viable".

In a statement, Sonja Belchere, custodian of Ludlow Castle, said: "It is with great regret that Ludlow Castle and Ludlow Arts Festival Ltd announce that they have decided not to stage an Arts Festival at the castle in 2015.

"Following the demise of the previous festival in 2012, and despite two successful and well-run festivals in 2013 and 2014, which saw increased numbers of attendees, the level of support has proved insufficient.

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"The castle and the Arts Festival directors have concluded that the scale of events they wish to stage are not commercially viable for either party and have therefore decided not to proceed in 2015.

"Tom Till for Powis Estates and Chris Davis and Chris Moreno for Ludlow Arts Festival Ltd said that this was very much a joint decision, having considered all the options available to them."

The decision not to go ahead included the Shakespeare Festival, she said.

John Challis, who starred in this year's 11-performance run of As You Like It alongside Coronation Street's Eric Potts, said it was disheartening news.

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The Only Fools and Horses Actor, who lives in Wigmore on the south Shropshire border, has been a staunch supporter of the Ludlow festivals.

He said: "I think it's very sad. We had a terrific production this year in As You Like It, but not enough people came to support it, which is disappointing, personally and for the festival.

"I know these are straitened times and so on, but I think these things need supporting. It's the sort of thing that makes the place so special.

"But who knows, I'm sure we'll find another way to do it – never say never." Mayor of Ludlow Paul Draper said: "It is very sad news and a big loss for Ludlow.

"I thought it was a very successful one this year, and very well put on, so it is a shame."

Anita Bigsby, organiser of the Ludlow Fringe Festival that runs in parallel with the Shakespeare and Arts Festivals, said the fringe would be going ahead next year as planned.

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