Calling time on beer festival

Lytham Beer Festival at Lowther Pavilion
Lytham Beer Festival at Lowther Pavilion
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Lytham Beer Festival is off this year.

After attracting more than 1,200 eager drinkers to its eighth staging at Lowther Pavilion last autumn, the event has been called off as a result of refurbishment work at the venue.

The fact the floor needs strengthening to support new seating has ruled out this year’s Festival, which was set for the first weekend of September – and organisers the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) are already searching for a possible alternative venue for 2017 in case Lowther’s ongoing refurbishment means it can’t be staged there then.

CAMRA branch spokesman Russell Cobb said: “We regret to announce that the Lytham Beer and Cider Festival will not be taking place this year.

“Blackpool Fylde and Wyre CAMRA and the Lowther Pavilion had agreed to stage the Festival over the first weekend in September but unfortunately, the floor will require strengthening work during this time, necessitating the Festival’s cancellation.

“The Lowther management have advised that no other dates are available this year as an alternative.

“We are extremely disappointed that we will be unable to put on a Beer Festival this year.

“Even if we ere to find an alternative venue now, it would count as a new festival and CAMRA stipulate they need six months’ notice for that to take place.

“Both the Lowther and ourselves are very keen to see Lytham Festival become a staple of the Fylde calendar, but with work planned for further improvements next year at the Pavilion, we may not back in 2017 either, so this is a real concern.

“If an alternative viable venue is made available to us for next year, we will look to see if it is possible to hold the event there, but so far none has been forthcoming.

“In the meantime, we apologise to the Fylde’s real ale lovers and crave their understanding, and we hope something may open up.”

Lowther general manager Roger McCann said: “We were originally planning to close for three months this summer and I told the Beer Festival organisers that the date they wanted was immediately after the proposed building period, so it could only be provisionally booked with the clear understanding that it may be cancelled at short notice if building work overran.

“When we were told that we wouldn’t have to close for the entire period as anticipated, it looked as though the dates CAMRA wanted would be available.

“We were also able to provide the Pavilion for both the Lytham Festival and the 1940s Weekend, both events that were originally thought to be impossible for us to be involved with this year.

“However, I still made it very clear to the organisers of the beer festival that it may have to be cancelled if the building schedule changed.

“New seating is being installed at the end of August and we believed we had allowed sufficient time for that to happen and still be available for the Beer Festival.

“Unfortunately, when the structural engineers undertook a survey of the existing floor, they reported that it would need strengthening to support the new seats as it failed to meet current standards.

“This has meant additional work and a longer period of closure, so unfortunately we are unable to host the Beer Festival this year.

“I know this has been very frustrating for the Beer Festival organisers, as it has for us, but this is in the nature of renovating old buildings.

“We just can’t say about the 2017 situation at this stage but we hope the event can return then.”

The beer festival, which last year featured a wide range of ciders and bottled beers from around the world as well as some 90 real ales, plus live music, has been staged at Lowther since 2007, missing just 2013, when CAMRA and the Lowther management failed to agree a deal for the use of the venue.

When it returned in 2014, however more than 1,000 people attended over the three days and Russell Cobb said: “It was as if we had never been away - the future of real ale is in good hands and Lytham is a great venue.”

Denize Ashton, chaierman of the Lytham Business Partrnership, said: “I am sad to hear there will not be a CAMRA Beer Festival this year, as, with all events that bring visitors in, they hopefully spend a bit of time and money in the town.

“As for an alternative venue (for 2017), that’s a tough one, as Lowther had the perfect set up for such an event. Maybe it could be set up in multiple venues and/or local hostelries, I’m not sure what CAMRA’s criteria is for setting up events.

“If anyone has got any bright ideas how this could be taken forward in future years we would be happy to help and most grateful for any input. Please email lythambizpartnership@outlook.com”