Bath Fringe & Walcot Nation
The Walcot Nation Dept. of Trade & Industry, National Exchequer, Walcot Arts Council & Ministry of Works, etc. are discomfited to announce that there will be NO Walcot Independence Day event in 2013. You are invited to celebrate your independence in whatever way you see fit, just the same!
On moving from Walcot Street to Kensington Meadows in 2006, we had a really lovely day out with the best of Bath-related entertainment, worthy of the great Nation Days & Walcot Festivals of the past - whatever the pessimists were saying about it before the event. The one thing that let the event down was the mis-match between what the event cost and what we collected on the gates. The event cost approximately £45,000 (an increase due to the costs of licensing an event under the new Licensing Act, in particular the requirements set by the Police) whereas the gates collected only about £12,000 in voluntary contributions (way down on previous years), to which we added £13,000 profit from the bars we ran (not even all of them) and stall fees, etc. This destroyed at a stroke the reserves built up against just such a ‘rainy day’ by hundreds of people working for nothing over previous years. Thanks a lot.
The Walcot Day group are proud to say that we've not gone out of business owing suppliers and artists money, like many allegedly 'commercial' festivals have done, in some cases repeatedly. But we can't run events of that scale without building up the funds again; the 2009 Independence Day event was - despite having to charge admission - heading back in the right direction. Greatly increased costs, mostly related to the safety of an event and its impact on the neighbours (both of which are matters very close to our hearts anyway), make it difficult to run such large community events without charging entrance or attracting hefty sponsorship. To forestall the usual pub conversation, there is little chance of a return to Walcot Street itself, at least in the near future: a group of determined residents made clear their opposition to all street events in 2007.
It's simply not true to say, as we've heard frequently, that "the council stopped it happening". The change in Licensing laws, that which got the pubs opening later, meant that it was very much more complicated to run a community event of that kind on the street: the big well-funded Carnivals like St Paul's or a green field festival with a big ticket price can afford to spend the time doing the preliminary paperwork and then have the personpower to make sure everyone sticks to what they're supposed to be doing: a small community organisation doesn't have those kind of resources. But it is true that as of 2010 the council withdrew the financial backing the Fringe used to support the Kensington Meadows events in general.
Walcot Day itself was never directly paid for by The Council or corporate sponsors, and that's probably a good thing: its capital has been that people were prepared to muck in or chip in to make sure it happened. Future Walcot Days are not entirely off the agenda, and if that happens we'll be calling on the community to manifest their support again.