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Gig in the Park organiser anxious over event's future

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Gig in the Park in Diss, 2017. Picture by Mark Bullimore Photography
Gig in the Park in Diss, 2017. Picture by Mark Bullimore Photography

The organiser of Gig in the Park has criticised length of time it is taking to come to decisions over next year’s event and the level of fees expected for closing the park.

Geoff Dixon’s comments follow a meeting of Diss Town Council’s executive committee last week at which it was proposed to charge the music festival organisers £2,500 for closing the park for two-and-a-half days next year, with the possibility of charging £5,000 for the following years.

At this summer’s inaugural event, the council allowed organisers to use the park in return for revenue based on any profits made.

However, the event, which was attended by around 2,300 people, was hit by torrential downpours, leading to a five-figure loss.

Mr Dixon, who also organises the acclaimed WoW festival, said: “My main concern about Gig in the Park 2019 is the length of time it is taking to get to a point in which the council will be able to advise its solicitors to draw up a contract of supply.

“I have to admit to being astonished by the scale of the fee being requested for the use of the park and the formula used to arrive at the costs.

“It ends up as a ‘fun tax’ for the residents of Diss to pay to use their park for entertainment.

Organiser, Geoff Dixon
Organiser, Geoff Dixon

“In 2018, we kept our prices very low to make the event inclusive for the people of Diss.

"We won’t be able to do this next year to the same degree; the fun tax will have to be applied to each ticket sold.

“Other festivals that are taking place after ours have already announced line-ups and are selling tickets, and we have already lost bands and suppliers that we wanted because of our inability to confirm our commitments.

“Once this process arrives at its conclusion, we will be better placed to decide if it makes economic sense to put the festival on, and if we are still able to book the acts we would need to, to make it a successful event.”

Gig in the Park was given the go-ahead for 2019 at an earlier full council meeting in November.

At the meeting, Cllr Julian Mason called the prospect of setting an upfront fee for closing the park entirely, "unprecedendent", as other events, such as Diss Cyclathon, still allowed access.

He also warned councillors, who set up a sub-committee to assess fee levels, it could be a “deal-breaker” for Mr Dixon.

A list of conditions were also applied by the council. These included a pathway being kept open behind the park pavilion, public toilet access throughout the event and that sound levels are contained.

Discussions were also held over whether the children’s play area in the park should be included in the enclosed area, which organisers pressed for to make the event “economically viable”.

Gig in the Park organiser Geoff Dixon told councillors there would several changes at next year’s event, including controlling noise with a marquee tent and finishing earlier on the Saturday and Sunday. The noise issue was the main criticism made in the 12 complaints received.

Mr Dixon said: “Gig in the Park is a big thing for Diss. It brings a level of entertainment that’s equal to the best you can get."

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