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War of words over failure of Weymouth Bayside Festival during Olympics

THE SHOW IS OVER: Police at the entrance to the Bayside Festival after it was closed

THE SHOW IS OVER: Police at the entrance to the Bayside Festival after it was closed

First published in News Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

A BLAME game row has erupted over who was responsible for the failure of the Weymouth Bayside Festival, which closed with debts of more than £800,000.

The festival village had been part of the attractions in Weymouth during the Olympic fortnight and was shut down after a week with organisers blaming poor visitor numbers.

Now a war of words has broken out over who was responsible with festival organisers Mainsail Ltd, which has gone into liquidation, laying the blame of the event’s collapse at the door of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council claiming lower than expected visitor numbers to the area was a major reason the event folded.

The council has hit back, stating Olympic visitor number estimates came from research by organisations.

It said Mainsail decided to charge people and closed the day before an estimated 100,000 visitors came to the resort for a weekend of sailing medal races, including ‘super sailing Sunday’ when Ben Ainslie won his fourth historic gold medal.

It comes as it is revealed administrators for the liquidation of Mainsail Ltd have published the director’s estimate of what the company owes as £804,895.

Of this Weymouth and Portland Borough Council is owed £97,000 for the development of the festival area – a car park Weymouth Pavilion – and rent.

Other creditors include traders, entertainers, staff, employee claims, advanced ticket sales, trade and expense accounts and a bank.

The festival, which included music, displays and food, set up to coincide with 2012 sailing events, closed 10 days prematurely on August 3.

The company went into liquidation on August 30, and as part of the liquidation process the administrators Portland Business and Financial Solutions Ltd produced a report on Mainsail’s affairs and creditors.

In a director’s report, Mainsail managing director Joe Hall said he had been told by the borough council they expected visitor numbers of 50,000 a day and they intended to attract 10 per cent of those.

Figures were reassessed following research commissioned by the Olympic Delivery Authority in May 2012 stated they expected 60,000 visitors for most days, 90,000 on four days and 117,000 in the middle weekend. Mr Hall said these forecasted numbers had a ‘direct impact’ on the costs associated with Bayside as it meant they needed extra toilets, security staff and visitor management.

Mr Hall said the Bayside business model was based on the two ‘key drivers’, first that there would be enough people coming to Weymouth and second that they would be willing to pay to enter the site. In the first few days the festival was attracting just over a third of its 9,000 capacity. When the visitors ‘did not materialise’ he spoke to the borough council and LOCOG on August 1 to request financial support to allow the festival to continue until the end of the Olympics , but he said: “Unfortunately both parties were unable to provide any further support.”

He added that other factors like negative transport messages warning of possible transport problems and a hike in the price of the park and rides ‘may have put people off coming’.

Mr Hall attributed Mainsail’s failure to the following reasons: “The costs associated with building the infrastructure based on the increased expected footfall provided by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council.

“The dramatically lower attendance to the Weymouth area during the Olympic fortnight than estimated by the borough council and other organisations, resulting in an inability to recover costs.”

He added: “I never doubted the forecasted attendance figures and due to the nature of the event there was no possibility of a ‘Plan B’ should they not materialise.”

Administrators Portland Business and Financial Solutions Ltd said that the liquidation process was underway and they would be looking at the assets and creditors to Mainsail Ltd.

Case manager Stewart Goldsmith said the director’s estimate of company liabilities came to £804,895. He said: “Until the work of liquidation is underway and certain assets are realised, it’s difficult to say how much will be recouped, if at all.”

COUNCIL HITS BACK

BOROUGH council bosses have hit back stating they never gave guarantees of visitor numbers during the Olympics.

Chief Executive of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council David Clarke , left, said the borough council took ‘no role in operating the Bayside Festival or the decision to end it early’.

He added the borough council had not received any rent for the site and was pursuing the legal process for the £97,000 which it was owed.

Mr Clarke said: “Figures of as many as 60,000 visitors to Weymouth and Portland were based on the estimate of approximately 30,000 staying visitors in the area, together with planning by the Olympic Delivery Authority for additional park and ride facilities for up to a potential 30,000 day visitors.”

He said this was based on research carried out by Transport for London and the Olympic Delivery Authority to help plan for the delivery of the Games, including transport and crowd management and evacuation planning.

He added: “No guarantees of visitor number were, or indeed could be given.”

He added that Mainsail and not the borough council decided on the ‘scale and scope’ of the festival and Mainsail changed the operation from the originally proposed ‘free to enter’ site to a paid for attraction.

Mr Clarke said: “Mainsail made the decision themselves to close the site, the very day before there were an estimated 100,000 visitors in the town over the weekend.”

Mr Clarke added promotional assistance had been given to Bayside but that financial help would have been ‘inappropriate’.

Mr Clarke added that it had ‘always’ been known that the number of visitors per day to the Nothe was only 4,600 and there was ‘no certainty’ about the number of general day visitors that might come for the Games.

He said: “The plans of the council, other public agencies and the emergency services demonstrated our preparedness by the delivery of a very successful games and the estimated visitor numbers were used in preparing these successful plans.”

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