Sponsor bows out of spring favourite

Wiltshire Times: Three Spires Morris Dancers in action at last year's Chippenham Folk Festival Three Spires Morris Dancers in action at last year's Chippenham Folk Festival

Chippenham Folk Festival organiser Bob Berry has warned that the event, which brings thousands of visitors to the town every May, could fold unless new sponsors are found.

The festival, which has been running for 43 years, lost its main sponsor Wavin two years ago and Mr Berry has called on traders to back it or lose it.

He said: “We were very lucky to have Wavin as a main sponsor for ten years. They were very good to us but now we need to find new sponsors.

"It is down to local traders to support us. We are in a situation that unless that happens we may not be able to carry on for much longer.”

Mr Berry has long bemoaned the fact that tens of thousands of people turn out every year for the free High Street parades and this bring trade to the town but ticket sales for the other music events are sometimes slow.

He also believes that traders, who benefit from the huge influx of visitors, should do more to support the festival.

The festival costs around £120,000 to stage and is helped by the Pop In A Pound initiative which encourages visitors to donate.

This year the festival is trying to get more young people involved by holding a community dance workshop which will show how traditional street dancing such as folk can link in with more modern forms of dance such as hip hop.

The festival has been given £3,150 by the Chippenham Area Board for the workshop, which will bring the Demon Barber Roadshow on Monday, May 26.

Mr Berry said: “This is a real chance for us to connect with a younger audience which is what we have to try and do.”

Chippenham’s own Xpression Street Dance run by Di Prior will be taking part in the workshop on the Monday afternoon before Damian Barber and his troupe take to the stage in the big top in the evening from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

Mrs Prior said:”I think it is brilliant we are going to be involved. I take street dance hip hop classes for youngsters of all ages and for adults and it is all just about having fun with dance and gaining confidence.”

Mr Berry said: “We are working with Wiltshire Council, who is helping financially to cover some of the cost of this event, in order to work with the street dance group from Chippenham that have not worked with the festival before. Hopefully we will see them perform a cameo spot in the evening show itself.

“People will have to book tickets for the workshop as we will have a maximum number of about 200 places.”

Tickets for the festival, which runs from May 23 to 26, are on sale. More details are at www.chippfolk.co.uk

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