Facebook campaign to save independent festival.

A Facebook group set up to ‘Save GuilFest’ is celebrating victory after a rival promoter’s plans to take over the outdoor venue were shelved. 

The group sprang up on the internet at the end of September when news broke that Guildford Borough Council was speaking to a global consortium, including AEG Europe, about a new music festival on Stoke Park, the same site as GuilFest. 

Numbers on the Facebook site swelled from two hundred to almost two thousand in a week. The administrator of the group, Ade Goldsmith, said: “That is pretty significant when you consider it’s nearly ten per cent of the number of visitors to the festival each year.  It shows that people in the town really care about their local festival.”   

Any decision by the council to stage an alternative event in the same location would have pushed out the independent festival that was founded 17 years ago by organiser Tony Scott.

“I was shocked to hear that Guildford Borough Council was talking to another party.  GuilFest has been built up by local people and has a very local feel.  A lot of people were upset when they realised they might lose the home-grown aspect of the festival,” said Scott.

Jim Miles, Strategic Director at the council, said: “Only one festival of this type would be allowed on the park per year to minimise the impact on local residents.”  He pointed out the council had a legal obligation to try and receive best value.

People posted messages on Facebook encouraging members to contact the council and Scott’s worries were over when the AEG bid was withdrawn in the face of overwhelming public protest. 

David Campbell, Chief Executive of AEG Europe, said: “We are saddened to confirm that as a result of petitions being organised against our company, we have decided to withdraw from any further discussions with the council. We are not going to engage in a public slanging match.”  He said it was important that concert-goers, artists and the local taxpayer got the very best outcome.

Scott said: “I am really pleased and relieved that we can now get on with the job of organising next year’s festival.” 

GuilFest 2009 will go ahead on the 10th, 11th and 12th July.  Tickets go on sale early next year.

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