Kendal Torchlight Carnival: 'Too late' to save this year's parade but 2013 to be 'bigger and better' (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Kendal Torchlight Carnival: 'Too late' to save this year's parade but 2013 to be 'bigger and better'
A RALLYING call to help make 2013’s Kendal Torchlight Carnival ‘the best yet’ was made when community campaigners met to discuss the event’s future.
While disappointed to learn it was ‘too late’ to achieve the original aim of saving this September’s procession, their attention is now turning to next year, with a plea for more volunteers and new committee members to help organise the town’s landmark spectacle.
Torchlight committee members cancelled pre-arranged commitments at the last minute on Friday to attend the two-hour public meeting and explain their decision to axe the event for the first time since its launch in 1970.
The meeting, attended by about 30 people, was organised and chaired by Julie Burrow, who said: “I would like to thank the committee for being here.
“We want to help the committee, not blame them, and I want everybody to understand how hard it is for them to come and do this.”
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron , also in attendance, added: “It’s a big deal for them to be here.
“They have done nothing wrong but there is the danger that people want to point the finger at somebody and I want to thank them for all they have done so far.
“Torchlight is really special and part of what makes you proud to be from around here.
“The thought of it not going ahead this year is heart-breaking.”
Earlier this week, organisers announced that this year’s street parade had attracted insufficient funds and volunteers needed to go ahead safely.
But many people were left upset at the news and questioned why the scale of the problems were not revealed sooner.
Organisers made it clear that money was not the only element required to deliver Torchlight – and said they would welcome offers of help from new ‘chiefs and Indians’ willing to help run it.
The committee said the ‘difficult decision’ to cancel Torchlight so late in the day was because of the length of time it had taken to try, unsuccessfully, to secure the necessary funds.
Committee member, and chair of the working group, Carole Knowles, said: “The decision to cancel for 2012 was very difficult, but without the volunteers and without the funds to commit to bookings, which should have been made by this stage, it would have been totally irresponsible to invite entrants and mislead people.”
The meeting heard that despite efforts to glean up to 150 volunteers to marshal the event, only 25 people had offered their services.
And the minimum of £20,000 needed to run the carnival was short by around £4,000.
Mr Farron said from inquiries he had made, there was around £16,000 available – a combination of funding from Kendal Town, South Lakeland District and Cumbria County councils and some private donations.
However, Mrs Knowles told the meeting that even if new resources were found, it was not possible to make this year’s event happen safely, because of a lack of both time to give marshals the training they need and cash to confirm entries.
She said: "Even if funds became available and enough people volunteered for 2012, the committee believes it is too late to put in place all the necessary elements to ensure the carnival can be held safely.
"While accidents can always happen, we must do our utmost to ensure that they don't."
Describing one funding frustration, Mrs Knowles said the committee had applied for £8,000 from South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) but was still awaiting an answer.
Fellow committee member Sharon Falshaw said SLDC was contacted in May and told the committee needed an ‘urgent response’ about the grant, but that the decision was not made until June.
Mayor of Kendal, John Willshaw, said the £5,000 donated by Kendal Town Council for this year’s Torchlight could be rolled over and added to a grant of the same amount in 2013.
Coun Willshaw said SLDC had set aside £1,000 to contribute to the event - and an SLDC spokesman previously told the Gazette the council had ‘made provision in its grant funding’.
Mrs Falshaw said the committee was ‘passionate’ about Torchlight but the event was dependent on people’s goodwill and volunteers prepared to commit themselves to organising it.
“It takes years of planning – there are so many different aspects to it.
“Safety is a massive thing for the committee and it’s not something we have taken lightly.
“We give up our time because we are passionate about Torchlight.
“We need people who will take on responsibility for certain areas and see them through to the end.”
Mrs Knowles said the committee was made up of ten voluntary members but it needed at least 20 to help run the event throughout the year – and even more people to help with marshalling.
Inspector Paul Latham, of Cumbria Police, who is based at Kendal, told the meeting that more than one hundred officers from around the county were drafted in as marshals in previous years.
But, he said, because of budget cuts, the obligation to meet health and safety requirements now rested with event organisers.
Insp Latham said the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) event management guide outlined how certain types of event had to be delivered legally.
“If you don’t follow the event management guide and something goes wrong, you don’t want to be the one in the coroner’s court explaining why you cut corners because you hadn’t got everything in place.”
He added: “Marshalling has changed – it’s no longer the case that marshals just turn up and throw on a yellow jacket. We want a great event, but the last thing we want to see is a child pushed forward and going under the wheels of a lorry.”
Some of those present suggested that Torchlight should be more ‘self-funded’, with all money raised from bucket collections on the night solely funding the following year’s event.
But others argued that charity involvement was an important part of the occasion.
Sight Advice South Lakeland and Cancer Care are among those which hold bucket collections on the night, with proceeds shared with Torchlight organisers.
Derek Armstrong, chairman of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said he had been 'inundated' with phone calls about the decision to cancel the event.
And he suggested that if Kendal became a Business Improvement District (BID) it would help fund Torchlight for many years.
The scheme, currently out for consultation, would see traders contribute to community projects through a smal tax.
Kendal councillor Clare Feeney-Johnson said: “I’m absolutely encouraged by Derek. The future of local events is through businesses, because public money just isn’t there. We have to be realistic; this year isn’t going to happen. Let’s make 2013 the year to remember.”
Councillor Matthew Severn suggested a smaller event, such as a concert or other entertainment, could take place in Abbot Hall in September ahead of a ‘bigger and better Torchlight in 2013’.
Anybody interested in joining the committee, helping organise the event throughout the year, or being a marshal on the night itself, should email firstname.lastname@example.org