Chichester’s Real Ale and Jazz Festival takes break

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Chichester’s Real Ale and Jazz Festival has confirmed it will be taking a year off in 2012 in the face of a fiercely-competitive calendar.

But festival spokesman Stuart Pembery confirmed the organisation was solvent, had a healthy bank balance – and was definitely planning to be back for 2013.

The festival, held in a purpose-built marquee in Priory Park to coincide with the Chichester Festivities, has attracted big names over the years including Katie Melua, The Pretenders, Status Quo, Alvin Stardust, Steve Harley and – last year – a first-ever Last Night Of The Proms event.

But Stuart confirmed last year’s sales were disappointing, despite strong feedback from those who did attend.

“The market is getting more and more fragmented with more and more events crammed into about two to three months. This year we have even more of a challenge with the Diamond Jubilee, the Euros, the Olympics and the new Nova festival up at Bignor which would have been our first weekend.

“These are nothing like our event, but people are spending generally less money and all these things fragment the market. We were very keen to keep it going and we were trying to put together a financial model for the event that would guarantee it would be successful. But in the end we didn’t feel we could do that this year, and so we have postponed it. We very nearly got to a place where we could feel comfortable.

“But we felt with the competitive market and also the recession that it would be better to plan for next year instead.”

Stuart urged people to write to the Chichester Observer with their views as to what format the festival should take in 2013: “We want people to give us their opinions.”

All was up for discussion: “We are not going to commit now to providing four nights of top-quality entertainment as we have in the past. It will be the Real Ale and Jazz Festival, but we can’t commit to more than that at the moment.”

The fact it is a fundraising event had got lost along the way, he added, because it was so well presented.