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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

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Ulverston’s Lantern Festival team seeks community support

A PUBLIC meeting heard Ulverston’s Lantern Festival hangs in the balance – but defiant organisers stressed it could still have a future with community support.

The meeting in the Coronation Hall was called after the Ulverston Lantern Supporters’ Group revealed the 30th annual festival in September could be the last.

Group chairman Peter Winston told the meeting on Tuesday night the event had recently been run at a loss, with deficits of £2,100 in 2010 and £900 last year.

He said: “Effectively in two years, the reserve has just about gone. With all these problems in place, Lantern Festival really is in a very sticky position overall, so we need people from the community to get involved.”

Lanternhouse, the main base for lantern-making workshops ahead of the festival, ended its programme of events on March 31 after losing Arts Council England funding. The meeting heard workshops could continue at Lanternhouse this year, but a new venue would be needed in future.

Mr Winston said finding a suitable replacement venue was difficult because a floorspace of 1,500 to 2,000 sqft was needed continuously for 10 days.

Ness Wilson, a volunteer organiser, said the uncertainty surrounding the festival was an opportunity to re-assess and plan for the festival’s long-term future.

She said: “Everything is changing and we would like to use this opportunity to look at how we, as a town, can work together. One of the main things we would like to do is create a sustainable continuation of this festival, which is part of our collective experience of Ulverston and part of the economic profile of the town. It’s a big deal for pubs on the night and people offering rooms and it helps keep us on the national stage.”

The festival was started by arts association Welfare International and sparked various similar events elsewhere. Ms Wilson said: “We want to regain and deserve the title of being the UK’s premiere lantern town. I’ve been all over the country and everybody knows about it, and this is little old Ulverston. But there are so many other places that have gone and taken the idea and embraced the idea and made their own events out of it, and they’re doing a lot better than us.”

People at the meeting backed Ms Wilson’s proposed 2012 festival theme of “We’ve built a Lantern Town” to celebrate the 30th anniversary.

Have your say

If you analyse the problems to do with this event, then many people believe the main one is with people who are allowed to take over the role of organise events without thought of the emotions and willingness of the helpers involved. In my view it is not to do with the availability of money.

The basis for this wonderful event is a feel good community making lanterns. Many of the very creative lanterns are made in people's homes and workshops costing nothing, the materials for each lantern is readily afforded by the people making them. Thus it is the organisation running the event that costs money in a way that can surely be minimised.

The police, whose involvement is very expensive, are ready to pass over the responsibility for the processions themselves to reliable people who could be volunteers, with the minimal of input from themselves other than to regulate traffic across the A590.

John Fox, of Welfare State International, who was one of the originators of the festival, has commented "The problem can be that these festivals get too big and into the hands people who lose sight of the original objective - a community event". Organisation becomes more important than creative flair.

Is it not time for our creative community to take over again and for power mad people (who may have organisation skills but upset most people because of their lack of the appropriate skills) to back off?

We have the potential of excellent guidance from Ness Wilson, of Ulverston Community Arts Network. Facilitators like her are worth their weight in gold . They are the ones that encourage and attract community involvement . These are the kind of people that the town should back with money: they should not be expected to give their valuable talents free.

Posted by Geoff Dellow on 13 April 2012 at 19:45

I'm certain the community support this wonderful festival but the organisers need to realise that the community work out of town and only if lucky get time to read a notice board or pick up a leaflet if passing - spread the word, but spread it effectively and you'll get the support of the community. I don't have 2000 sqft to offer but I would happily help in any other way. I would also happy pay an entrance fee to the park for the finale if that helps with costings. If the organisers can spread the word effectively, the support is out there.

Posted by E Forrester on 13 April 2012 at 10:23

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