THE future of Windermere Air Festival hangs in the balance after organisers received a torrent of complaints over their handling of the event.

Nearly 40,000 people descended on the lakeside village over the weekend to watch the 11th annual air show which included flight displays from the Red Arrows and RAF Falcons.

But the introduction of a £6 ‘on the day’ adult fee to enter the park – which was fenced off and included stalls and attractions – sparked online protest.

Hundreds of online comments left on Facebook and The Westmorland Gazette’s website criticised Kendal’s Bluestone Events for charging people to enter Glebe public park and for taking business away from Bowness traders.

Paul Hogg, who owns Vinegar Jones fish and chip shop in Bowness, said it was unfair that the events company had included food and drink vendors on the Glebe from outside the area.

He said: “I pay my business rates to the council so I don’t want trade to crop up on the Glebe.

"I got supplies in thinking it would be a busy weekend and I feel let down.”

The Windermere Air Festival – which brings in around £4 million to the local economy every year – started in 2000 with free air displays provided by the RAF as a thank-you to locals for ‘putting up with’ their low flying practices.

After 10 years running the event, Windermere Rotary Club decided they could no longer manage it and turned to Bluestone directors Kate Thomas and Lucy Bennett.

Now run as a commercial venture, the air show no longer benefits from ‘freebies’ the Rotary Club’s charity status brought.

Miss Thomas said: “We understand why some people have expressed concerns over the changes we have had to make to the event this year in terms of ticketing, but without these the festival’s significant overheads would not have been met and the event could not have been run.”

Miss Bennett added: “This year, through opportunities to tender and direct approaches to businesses, we did everything possible to ensure services at the event were delivered by local companies.”

The company planned to give 25 per cent of any profits to charity but believe they have only just broken even.

Clive Langley, for the Rotary Club, said: “Clearly without any form of funding, the event would not take place.

"We should give thanks to Bluestone for having the courage to take on the financial risk and the massive organisation that the Rotary Club of Windermere could no longer provide on their own.”

A spokesperson for South Lakeland District Council said: “SLDC incurs additional costs when the air show takes place including an enhanced lake warden’s service plus additional litter collection and street cleansing.

"As this event is a commercial concern, the council levies a modest charge on the organisers for the use of the Glebe.”

Bad feeling towards this year’s festival and the lack of a profit may jeopardise the festival long-term according to organisers.

Miss Thomas said: “The long term survival is still in the balance and as a small, local company we hope the local community will support us in maintaining and developing this great festival, which brings so much to the local economy, for years to come.”

How festival adds up

£80,000 is the total cost to Bluestone Events to put on the festival.

This included:

* £35,000 to cover the management of the air display, flying director, air traffic control fees and insurance and fees for 13 of the air displays.

* £28,000 advertising, traffic management, security, toilets, ground entertainment, battle re-enactments, static plane displays and falconry demonstrations.

* £15,000 to hire the Red Arrows.

* £1,800 Glebe hire and Lake Warden’s service bought from SLDC.

Costs to visitors

* £5 advance tickets
* £6 on the day
* £16 family ticket
* £20 family ticket on the day
* £5 programme
* £5 car parking

Click on the link below for our photo gallery from the event.