Merefest future hangs in balance over ticket sales
The future of Merefest, which attracts thousands of visitors, is under a cloud due to a lack of funds.
Visitors were asked to pay an entry fee to help cover the running costs of the event in Ellesmere.
But, some residents complained about the entry fee and said they were not paying for access to public spaces.
As a result organisers said ticket sales fell below what was expected and they are currently unsure whether there are sufficient funds to run Merefest in 2018.
They said the event was dependent upon an entry fee of £3 for adults and £2 for children to cover the running costs.
Last year 6,000 tickets were sold for the event, which is run by the Shropshire Wildlife Trust. Organisers were hoping to sell 10,000 this year. The festival covered the whole of the Cremorne Gardens area in Ellesmere for the day, plus a farmers’ market along the promenade.
Luke Neal, festival organiser, said: “The vast majority of feedback we have had has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Out of respect for the local view on access to the park we made it clear that if people were attending the event then they needed to buy a ticket which entitled them to access all the attractions.
“Due to austerity cuts the outdoor recreation department has to find new ways of raising money to preserve our parks. Events like Merefest are a part of this sustainable future for our green spaces. If you were not interested in the event and wanted to walk a dog or use the play area access was free.
“No-one was denied access to the park and we did not have the staff available to escort anyone within the site.
“A large number of people did indeed access Merefest using the loophole as a way of not paying the ticket price. As a result our ticket sales fell below that expected and we are currently unsure if there are sufficient funds to run Merefest in 2018.”
Shaun Burkey, site manager of The Mere at Ellesmere, said: “This very popular festival was previously funded by Meres & Mosses but this year had to seek other sources of funding to ensure it could continue. This included asking people who wanted to attend the festival to make a contribution.
“The organisers asked our permission to do this earlier this year and we were fully supportive. The matter was also presented to members of the Mere Advisory Board, made up of town and county councillors and other key stakeholders and was unanimously accepted.
“Without this contribution we realised that the festival would not be able to go ahead and the vast majority of people we have spoken to since have accepted that and don’t have a problem with a small entry charge for what is an excellent family day out.”
“In addition it is recognised that Merefest supports so many local businesses and is something that Ellesmere should be rightly proud to host as people travel in their thousands from near and far to attend.
“Anyone not wanting to pay but to walk through Cremorne Gardens would be allowed access. The organisers went to great lengths to ensure this was the case.”