THE new boss of Kendal’s Torchlight Carnival has urged the town to ‘step up’ to ensure the event’s future after unveiling radical plans to shake-up the annual parade.
Simon McElroy hopes his ambitious bid to ‘re-choreograph’ the September spectacle will make it ‘less procession, more carnival’ and gain a reputation as a ‘world-class’ attraction which puts Kendal on the map.
Mr McElroy, 49, has disbanded the existing committee and is setting up a 10-strong team of professional volunteers to manage areas like sponsorship, logistics and content.
The team will be tasked with bringing back the popular gathering this September after it was axed for the first time in 42 years last summer, and make it self-funding and sustainable within five years.
Mr McElroy, of Kendal, used an exclusive interview with the Gazette to urge businesses which benefit from the influx of 40,000 revellers on Torchlight night to make a greater financial contribution to staging it.
The corporate events specialist said: “I will be asking, and expecting, local businesses to make a donation.
“This year, it’s more important than ever that those businesses that benefit directly from the footfall contribute - they lost out heavily last year.
“It’s estimated we bring in up to £300,000 every year and most of that is going to go into the pubs, accommodation providers and restaurants.”
His other changes include a Torchlight Friends Group, where members pay a £5 annual fee to receive newsletter updates and discounts at shops, the theme chosen by the public, fundraising events throughout the year and a re-designed website - www.kendaltorchlightcarnival.co.uk - launching within weeks.
And in a break with tradition, only three charities would be allowed to collect on the night.
Two local and one national organisation would be chosen by the public.
Mr McElroy also wants to hear from Kendalians who are passionate about the town and able to represent it publicly in his team, while a further 160 people are needed to marshal the route.
“Torchlight has always seemed a little bit hidden, we need to become far more open to the public,” Mr McElroy said.
“Anyone can come on board but you have to be committed to doing jobs. Opinions are great, but I need professionally-capable people that come in, do the work and represent Kendal.”
Former committee members Carole Knowles, Malcolm Conway and Eddie Holmes, who was the key organiser until a serious accident last February, will remain involved as advisory trustees.
There is currently £14,000 in Torchlight coffers and a drive is underway to raise another £16,000 to make this year’s carnival go ahead.
After that, Mr McElroy has set an annual fundraising target of £60,000 to stage ‘the most amazing carnival in Northern England’.
His aim is generate £18,000 from grants and the rest from businesses and sponsorship in a bid to move away from, he said, ‘shaking buckets’ and ‘scratching around’ as one of the parade’s main income streams.
“It’s got to be exciting, fresh and engaging for schools, clubs and businesses,” he added.
“It’s the one night of the year that Kendal comes out to party. I will do my absolute utmost that it goes ahead and becomes better.”
Kendal Torchlight Carnival is set to return on Friday, September 13.
Anyone interested in getting involved can contact Mr McElroy on 07721-906-030 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org