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Stradisphere organisers call it a day

Brett and Jo Baber at the site of the Stradisphere Music Festival. Picture by Mark Bullimore Photography.
Brett and Jo Baber at the site of the Stradisphere Music Festival. Picture by Mark Bullimore Photography.

A Stradbroke man has told of his “heart-wrenching” decision to pull the plug on a village music festival.

Brett Baber founded Stradisphere Musical Festival with his wife, Jo, five years ago and built audiences from around 300 to its peak of around 1,500.

This year saw the festival feature its biggest headline acts to date, including Mercury Music Prize winner Badly Drawn Boy and fusion band Sam and the Womp.

But continuing losses over five years forced Mr and Mrs Baber, and the committee they set up to run the festival, to call it a day.

In the process, Brett, 39, and Jo, 30, have also had to sell their house to pay off some of the debts incurred.

“It was a heart-wrenching decision,” said Brett, a bank operations manager.

“My ambition to succeed very nearly ruined us financially. Stradisphere was self-funded and we received very little financial support.

“Many people would think we made thousands when the reality was that we have run at a heavy loss every year.

“We sold our house last year to pay off some of the debts from the first four festivals and moved to somewhere a smaller.

“We also invested some of that equity into this year’s event as we had genuinely impressive headline acts, big screens, our own awards scheme designed to promote local bands and music.

“But a combination of factors, including other festivals and the World Cup, meant we made even heavier losses than before.”

Brett formed a community interest company to run the festival, which last year featured nearly 30 acts, around 20 stallholders, children’s workshops and traditional funfair.

The idea behind the festival had been to showcase local talent.

“We did get small grants towards the costs for which we are very grateful but we found ourselves putting more and more funds in,” said Brett, who has lived in the village for seven years and grew up in Harleston.

“None of us, including the committee, did it for the money, but as a community event.

“Although it grew in reputation and audience numbers, it wasn’t enough to keep it going. The team grew from just me and Jo, who has lived in the village all her life, to more than 20, who also wanted to hold the festival for the same reasons. Everyone is heartbroken.”

Mr Baber hopes the festival can continue in some form.

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