NEXT year’s Bournemouth Air Festival will be that last of its kind if it goes ahead, the council has confirmed. 

Funding for 2024’s air festival by BCP Council is to be capped at £200k and can only go ahead if businesses, sponsorship and donations can contribute a minimum of £100k, subject to approval. 

It currently costs the authority between £400k and £500k to fund the typically four-day event, however, funding for next year’s festival would be for three days starting on Thursday, August 29. 

The council is proposing Sunday would be allocated as a ‘fun day’ entirely run and funded by external organisations. 

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All of this is subject to approval by BCP Council’s senior councillors at a cabinet meeting to be held on Wednesday, November 22. 

The following year, 2025, will not be going ahead – again, subject to likely approval. 

BCP Council has said it will not be funding the air festival for 2025 and onwards due to the £44m budget shortfall which needs to be fixed. 

Alternatively, the authority will look at a number of potential changes to the festival. This includes: 

  • Turning to the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) for its involvement, possibly including the Arts (STEAM). 
  • Support from Bournemouth Area Hospitality Association to cover the costs of accommodation for display teams, which was budgeted at £22,449 in 2023. 
  • Funding could come from the creation of an Accommodation Business Improvement District, but this would have to go through a ballot of potential levy payers. 
  • The development of a ‘Festival of Air’ to replace the event from 2025, with content including kites and drones and a potential display by the Red Arrows or Typhoon. 

Cllr Andy Martin, portfolio holder for customer, communications and culture, said: “After 2024, we will have to effectively hand over the potential air festival, or what it will look like, step back and let other people come in, such as private partners, private organisations. 

“We don’t have the money to fund this festival after 2024. 

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“We have an economy across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole that’s very much based on visitors so we want as much happening across the three towns as possible in 2025. 

“This is why we are making it an attractive place to come and why we’re talking about all the ideas mentioned.”

Jess Gibbons, chief operations officer at BCP Council, said a decision on the options for 2025 onwards has not yet been made. 

“We need to go to market to see what people want first, we need to know what people could supply in terms of running the event and that includes work continuing with the air festival working group.” 

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She added no council staff manhours will be given to any remains of the experience post-2024, but that if anybody does help it will have to be funded by external organisers. 

She added: “We’ve got the £44m gap which we need to close and we have to remember that our medium-term financial plan is not just for one year. 

“It’s a four-year plan and we have a gap next year and then a further gap in subsequent years and this decision is about closing the gap and making tough decisions about how we do things differently. 

“But we will absolutely be continuing our role to enable the council top help fund events, festivals and the great cultural activities that make our place vibrant and attracts visitors.” 

The recommendations will be discussed at next week's cabinet meeting where a decision will be made.