Crippling fees could shut down Edinburgh’s Meadows Festival for good, warn volunteers

The Meadows Festival is under threat, warn volunteers. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
The Meadows Festival is under threat, warn volunteers. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Volunteers who run the popular annual Meadows Festival fear crippling fees could force the popular annual event to close for good.

Organisers said they might have to pull the plug on the festival, after nearly 50 years, following a £5,000 price tag for operating in the city centre.

The volunteer-run community event, which attracts more than 20,000 people to the Meadows Park, used to sit within the Morningside council ward but a shift in boundaries in 2017 means the festival is now in the city centre ward – triggering a significant increase in fees.

The application fee for a temporary outdoor market in the area is £84 per stall, subject to a maximum of £5,000 and with an application for 130 stalls, and the festival would liable for maximum 
amount.

The Meadows Festival Committee, who have lodged an appeal with Edinburgh City Council licensing board for a reduction in the Market Operators fee, said if the appeal isn’t granted they will have to cancel the event.

Event organiser Callum Ross said the city centre price tag is aimed at commercial companies such as Underbelly and not community events like the festival. He added: “The Meadows Festival currently runs on a budget of just over £25,000. With public entertainment licences as well, we are looking at almost a quarter of our costs basically going to council fees to run an event. We are really struggling to stay afloat at the moment.

“Any extra fees on us really are going to cripple us.”

The event has been taking place on the eastern side of The Meadows for around 45 years and organisers say relocating to the other side of the park, where the stall charge would be £6 instead of £84, would also incur “significant” costs.

“Neither of the options are practical or affordable for us and we will have to cancel this year if we don’t get a fee reduction.

“This arbitrary series of events means that the fees it should pay are of a scale that would be affordable by a commercial operation such as Underbelly, but are not affordable by a community run event that is organised and manned by volunteers.”

Councillors will decide at the licensing sub-committee meeting on Tuesday whether to grant the appeal.

In a report issued prior to the meeting council officers have advised the elected members that if the committee do agree to the appeal the “level of fee reduction cannot be sustained” and “the applicant should plan their budget in future years accordingly”.

City Centre Cllr Jo Mowat has supported the festival’s plea for a reduced fee.

She said: “This is a situation that was created by a boundary change at the 2017 elections and to move the festival to take them out of the boundary would incur a significant amount of time and effort on the behalf of volunteers who have established a successful
community event over a number of years.

“I am also concerned that if the fee is not reduced then the council would be sending out a message that long-established community events don’t have a place in the city centre ward which is not a statement that any of my councillor colleagues would make intentionally – so I urge them not to make it unintentionally.”

fiona.pringle@jpimedia.co.uk