Kentish life

Hop Festival dispute rumbles on

The row over the staged withdrawal of council funding for the Faversham Hop Festival illustrates how the bean-counting mentality of Swale Council’s dominant Tory group spawns bias against all the arts and culture in general.

The talk in the town’s pubs and hairdressers, in shops and at the market is universally critical of  Faversham councillor Bryan Mulhern. The hapless council member for Abbey Ward looks likely to pay the price for offending the beer drinking fraternity, music fans, cultural types and, foolishly for a Tory, the struggling small businesses of the town.

Apart from the threat to the festival itself the affair has allowed funding for the Sittingbourne Re:bourne arts celebration – itself a worthy project and  in its early days –to be posed against cash for the Hop Festival.

Swale Council mouthpiece  Mark James said: “Swale Council recognises the high profile of the Faversham Hop Festival. It has established itself as being very important to the tourism economy.

He added: “Councillors took the view that the Faversham Hop Festival was a profitable festival and that the committee was more than capable of running itself.

“The council has limited funding to resource events and therefore we need to prioritise this resource.”

So the unpaid and exhausting efforts of the Festival committee – which have help turn to the Hop Festival into a success–  results in a cut in funding and the threat to the festival in future years.

The political logic of this parallels the kind of thinking that pervades the ConDem government at national level. If something is successful, generates business and employment, brings fun and profits then cut it.

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