Crisis for threatened Wetherby Arts Festival

Flashback - Beatles for Sale tribute band wowing the audience at Wetherby Arts Festival in 2105.
Flashback - Beatles for Sale tribute band wowing the audience at Wetherby Arts Festival in 2105.

After nearly four decades of attracting superstars such as Stephan Grappelli, Kate Rusby, Honor Blackman and Humphrey Lyttelton to the town, Wetherby’s premier arts event is under threat.

Unless new volunteers come forward quickly, last year’s Wetherby Arts Festival, the 38th, could be its last.

The crisis has been triggered by the resignation of all seven of the event’s directors in the face of the sheer pressure of workload.

Festival chairman Richard Messenger said: “There are, at present, just seven committee members who organise, promote, sell tickets, prepare venues and manage the finances of Festival events.

“It is a huge task and involves committing a great deal of time and effort prior to and during the Festival.

“In light of the workload, and the difficulty in finding assistance, the existing committee, who are all directors of the company, have decided, regrettably, not to stand for re-election.”

Originally launched in 1977 by Jonathan Bailey, vicar of Wetherby at the time, and the event’s future director Ted Kilner, the festival was a success almost from the beginning. But that success has come at a price for its hardy band of organisers who have done so much for the town over the years.

In 2014 the Festival was organised by just four committee members.

In 2015 the Festival was organised by just seven directors, who are also committee members.

A true labour of love, supporting Wetherby Arts Festival brings its own rewards and challenges.

There is an enormous amount of work involved in booking artists, finding suitable venues, designing printing and distributing the Festival brochure, publicising events, selling tickets, managing the finances and a whole variety of other activities.

Richard Messenger said “If new directors cannot be found then there is little option left but to wind up the company and distribute any assets to similar charitable organisations in the area in accordance with the written constitution.”

An urgent appeal has now been made for volunteers to step forward and rescue the event which showcases regional and national talent across a week in October.

Richard said: “For the Festival to continue new directors, who are willing to become committed to the organisation and day to day running of Festival events, must be nominated and elected at the forthcoming annual general meeting.”

Anyone interested in standing at the AGM, which taks place at the Sandbeck Way Social Club on February 1 at 7.30pm, should email wetherbyfestivalsec@hotmail.co.uk