Skipton Waterway Festival is one of the big events in the town’s packed calendar – and it would not happen without BID support, says one of the owners of the family firm which organises it.
The canal-based festival attracts thousands of visitors into the town on the first May Bank Holiday weekend every year.
It is put on by Pennine Cruisers, and Zoe Venn, who owns the company with her dad and mum, Ian and Pamela Clarke, is very clear about what it would mean for the event if the BID isn’t renewed for a third term.
“Whenever I have conversations with people who are opposed to the BID, the first thing I say to them is that without the BID support, the Waterway Festival would not happen,” she said.
“The amount of financial support the BID gives us is vitally important for the festival, which is a non-profit making event.”
For the last ten years, the BID has financially supported the festival, along with many other events, including the Skipton Christmas Markets, the Skipton International Puppet Festival, and Sheep Day.
It has provided seed funding for new events, such as Skipton Car Show and Yarndale, as well as financial support for existing ones during that period, and plans to continue to develop and enhance the range of events and festivals in the town over the next five years if it levy payers vote YES for renewal in January’s ballot.
Zoe says the BID is not only vital for the Waterway Festival to continue, but for the good of the town as a whole.
“For Skipton as a whole, the BID is really important, but sometimes people aren’t aware or aren’t that interested in how things are actually funded,” she said.
“If we lost the BID, we would lose a lot of very important things that benefit the town. If people took a close look at a list of everything that could be lost if the BID isn’t renewed, I think they would quickly realise just how important it is to vote YES in January.”
The three-day Waterway Festival started in 2001 and attracts more than 10,000 visitors into Skipton.
Although it was originally run in partnership with the Canals and Rivers Trust (then British Waterways), Pennine Cruisers took on full responsibility for the event after five years.
Based around the Canal Basin, the event includes live music, family entertainment, stalls, crafts, rides, and water-based attractions.
Zoe says the non-profit making event relies on the funding the BID is able to provide them to keep going.
“Ten years ago, we were able to find money from other sources, but business is hard now and we just wouldn’t be able to get that same level of sponsorship and grant support,” she said.
“The Town Council helps with staffing and infrastructure, and Craven District Council gives us the space in the car park, but neither is likely to have the budgets any more to do anything else.
“To make the event work, we have all the costs of security, stewarding, setting up the stages and marquees, all the running costs. That’s where the BID money comes in.
“This is a not-for-profit event and it’s free for anyone who wants to come along and enjoy it. I genuinely believe we couldn’t do it without that money.
“Like all the festivals the BID supports, this one benefits the whole town. People might spend two or three hours enjoying our attractions, but then many of them will head to the town centre and walk down the High Street and into the shops, and have a drink or a meal. I’m absolutely certain it must boost footfall for the whole of the town.
“But it also provides something for this end of town as well and brings people down here to have a look what is on offer here.
“It’s a great free event for local residents to come to as well as visitors, and it undoubtedly brings in significant numbers of visitors.”
BID manager Geraldine Thompson said supporting festivals like this was vital and benefitted the whole town.
“Even if your own business doesn’t appear to benefit directly from the tens of thousands who visit each year for these events, it undoubtedly benefits indirectly,” she said.
“Visitors support businesses. Businesses support employees. Employees live in the town – and then spend money on local businesses and services.”
Skipton BID is a business-led partnership that has worked for almost 10 years to improve the safety, vitality, cleanliness and visitor appeal of the town.