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Sadness as Ellesmere's Merefest festival is cancelled

By Jonny Drury | Ellesmere | News | Published:

A festival that brought thousands of visitors to a Shropshire beauty spot has been cancelled.

Merefest brought thousands of visitors to Ellesmere

Merefest, which was launched in 2013 as a free festival, has become a popular annual fixture.

It brought a host of outdoor activities and live bands to Ellesmere’s Mere and Cremorne Gardens.

But the festival lost funding from the Meres and Mosses Landscape Partnership Scheme last year, and ticket revenues at the 2017 event failed to raise enough money to carry on.

A statement on the event’s Facebook page said organisers had failed to make the books balance following last year’s event, and the festival would no longer take place.

It said: “Merefest regrets to announce that we will not be running in 2018.

The event attracted 6,000 people in 2016

“Without the Meres and Mosses Landscape Partnership Scheme project to subsidise staff time we just can’t make the books balance.

“We have had an amazing time and loved organising and putting on this fabulous event.

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“The original brief was to put on an event attracting 800 people, and so, if you were one of the thousands that joined us you will know that we delivered in spades.

“Our special thanks goes out to all our partners, traders, service providers and sponsors.”

The free festival began small, but still attracted crowds of thousands of people with activities such as mountain biking, canoeing, craft stalls, a farmers market and live bands.

The event, run by Shropshire Wildlife Trust, attracted 6,000 people in 2016, but the following year people had to pay for tickets.

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Merefest was launched in 2013 as a free festival

After a drop in ticket sales for the 2017 event, organisers said as early as September that the 2018 event could be in jeopardy

Organiser Luke Neal warned last year that due to the fall in ticket numbers, organisers were unsure if sufficient funds were available to run the 2018 event.

Merefest attracted more than 10,000 people in its five years of existence. The event was free to enter, and was funded by the Meres and Mosses Landscape Partnership Scheme, however after funding was lost entrance fees of £3 for adults and £2 for children was asked for last year.

But the festival's downfall came when locals refused to pay for a ticket to access public spaces at the 2017 event, and as a result ticket sales fell.

This led to sufficient funds being made available, and forced the organisers hands to cancel the 2018 event.

Lack of funding

Ellesmere mayor, Councillor Ryan Hartley said the event has been a popular one for the area, but it is a case of a simple lack of funding has forced it to end.

He said: "It has been popular for the area, and in reality all it is down to is a simple lack of funding.

"It has brought people from other areas into the area by the mere, but having not raised enough money through ticket sales last year it doesn't have the money anymore.

"It was a trial to charge people last year, and it hasn't raised enough money so it will be sad to see it go.

"I think people appreciated it, but last year I think it failed to break even and it has had to end."

Councillor Hartley added it was no longer financially viable to run the event, and admitted he doesn't feel it had a huge impact on the centre on Ellesmere.

He said: "It was good for the area by the mere and attracted people from all over.

"However I don't think it had as much impact in the town, so I don't think it will leave a huge hole in the calender in the town."

Jonny Drury

By Jonny Drury
@JonnyDrury_Star

Senior reporter covering Oswestry and Mid Wales.

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