Kingsbury May Festival at risk for a second year due to new stallholder charge
A much-loved country fair in Kingsbury Episcopi could be at risk for the second year in a row after a new charge caused stall holders to pull out, an organiser claims.
John McGrouther, of the Kingsbury May Festival committee, has slammed a new levy that has been imposed by South Somerset District Council.
Under new rules, stall-holders must pay £13 for a Traders’ Consent Licence, unless the stall has a charitable purpose.
This charge is on top of the £20 pitch fee charged by the festival committee.
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The festival, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, was forced to cancel last year due to severe flooding.
Mr McGrouther said some stalls had already cancelled.
He said: “It’s the first time the levy has been imposed when it could have been applied years ago.
“The driving force seems to be funding cutbacks – the council is desperate for any source of funding.
“One has to consider that at least half of the stalls are either local clubs and groups, such as Girl Guides, garden clubs, the Recreation Committee, and book clubs.
“Or very small kitchen-sink or garden shed enterprises selling jams, chutneys, home-made sweets and arts and crafts.
“It is not going to be worth their while paying £13 to the council and £20 to us.
“We could reduce our charge but that puts the future of the festival at risk.
“Some stall holders have already pulled out. And last year’s cancellation has not helped as the flooding may recur – many of those groups and enterprises make too little to stand the loss of another cancellation.”
The Western Gazette reported last month that the committee hoped the 20th anniversary would be their biggest and best yet.
Despite last year’s flooding, many of the usual attractions had been persuaded to return.
These include a medieval village, a tractor display, The People’s String Foundation, Bristol Muppet Show and possibly synchronised swimming.
A statement from South Somerset District Council said the charge would not be imposed on charitable stalls, including Girl Guides.
It said: “The district council is imposing the charge after the implementation of the street trading policy in November 2010, following a landmark street trading case that defined a street as any area of land which the public had access to without payment.
“A full consultation was carried out before the implementation of the policy. If stall-holders are giving all the money back to the charity then there is no charge.
“The people that are having to pay for a Traders’ Consent Licence are those commercial traders that are making a profit out of the event.
“If they are for charitable purposes then they would not need to pay either. We are not trying to stop genuine fundraising for the village.”