2nd Dec, 2016

REVEALED: Godiva Festival in Coventry to continue as free annual event despite cuts

Les Reid 11th Jul, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

THE GODIVA Festival will go ahead next year and ‘indefinitely’ as an annual three-day festival free of charge, the Observer can reveal.

A formal announcement by Coventry City Council on the Godiva’s future is expected tomorrow, but we have learned the ruling Labour group has taken the decision to continue with the summer music and culture festival in its current form.

There has been increasing pressure on the festival’s future in an era of deep public spending cuts.

It began in 1997 and is billed as the largest free family music festival in the UK.

The annual net cost to council taxpayers has been around £300,000 – the difference between the council’s costs of delivering the festival in the War Memorial Park each summer, and income from sponsors and other commercial activities.

Leading Labour councillors have previously mooted revenue spinning ideas including charging an admission fee into the site, and there had been speculation of an imminent announcement of fee-charging.

Others had suggested cutting the festival back to once every two years.

The council last week unveiled its latest £4million cuts proposals which could close 10 libraries, 14 youth clubs and six more children’s centres. Labour councillors blame them on the halving of government funding to councils since 2010 – amounting to around £100million lost for council jobs and services.

But the Godiva Festival has long been considered a ‘jewel in the city’s crown’.

The festival earlier this month attracted a record 148,000 visitors over Friday, Saturday and Sunday – up on previous records of around 120,000.

It also has the ability to generate income with visitors from the Midlands and further afield spending their money in the city.

The decision comes as the city is bidding to become UK Capital of Culture.

This year’s festival included a Coventry culture tent, which showcased the city’s musical and creative talent.

This year’s highlights also included the Boomtown Rats fronted by Sir Bob Geldof, Scouting for Girls, and Manchester indie-band The Charlatans.

Legendary performances throughout the years have come from Coventry’s own chart-toppers The Enemy, Happy Mondays, Kasabian, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Human League.

The Observer has learned from sources that the controlling Labour group has made a formal decision to go ahead with preserving the festival as a free, three-day annual event, and has committed to the festival continuing ‘indefinitely’ even if council subsidies continue to be required.

The council will also continue to seek new income potential, including through sponsorship and marketing the festival.

More tomorrow.