THE FUTURE of the longstanding Return to Camden Town Festival hangs in the balance as the popular annual musical event announces it has made losses for the past three years.
Festival Director Karen Ryan, who co-founded the Festival in 1998, revealed this week that public funding cuts and rising costs may mean this year’s event could be their last.
In a post on the Return to Camden Town Facebook page she said: “One never knows quite how frank to be about these things, finances, for fear of being alarmist, but I guess it's better to be open about our situation now, than when we find ourselves unable to enter into a 19th year for our much loved Return to Camden Town Festival - sadly a very real prospect for 2017.”
The musician, who is part of The London Lasses band and a well-known face on the traditional music circuit, explained that the Festival’s cash flow was now “extremely tight”.
“Due to public funding being cut in all directions, the rising cost of flights and accommodation in London for our visiting artists and more, we have found ourselves in a situation where, despite serious adjustments for survival, the Festival has been making losses for three of the last four years.”
She added: “In earlier years, when levels of funding were higher, any money made on the Festival was ploughed back into the budget for the following year's programme, or used to build up reserves for a rainy day for the Festival further down the line. It's been raining for a while now - and reserves have dwindled to the level that make cash flow extremely tight.”
While Ms Ryan has reassured supporters that the 2016 offering – the 18th instalment of the popular festival, which takes place from October 25-31 – will go ahead, she called for the community to show their support if they wish to see it return next year.
“We will make it through for this year's Festival - as long as you good people continue to support us with ticket sales in the way you always do (we are very grateful),” she said.
“But without securing considerable amounts of money from new sources, we will not have the reserves to go forward for the 19th year of Return to Camden Town in 2017.
“Please, please, please – if you haven’t already - buy a ticket for the concert and encourage your friends, family, neighbours and anyone else to do the same,”
Ms Ryan added: “[This year] we are inviting various new business contacts from the Irish community, in the hope that we can encourage them to join our existing sponsors - who have been brilliant in their support for promoting Irish arts in London down the years, or perhaps just to donate on the night, or to contribute to our grand draw.
“If there is anyone you know in the business or construction world, who we may not have reached already and may be sympathetic to our cause perhaps you might let us know so that we can invite them along.”
Founded at a time when many Irish music and dance venues had closed their doors in London, the Return to Camden Town Festival offered a “focal point” for traditional music, Ms Ryan explains.
The support and promotional work now needed around the event is provided by the Irish Music and Dance London team.
“The Festival has been a focal point to bring back together and maintain the strength of the Irish music, song and dance community spread far across London these last 18 years - it has provided the opportunity to welcome many visiting musicians, singers and dancers into our community to share our love for the music - enabling reunions and first meetings, keeping us all inspired and helping to enthuse the next generation of musicians here,” Ms Ryan added.
“I guess the long and short of it is - we now need your help!”
If you can help, contact the Festival via their website or through their Facebook page ReturntoCamdentown