Blakefest organiser admits ‘mistakes’

Rachel Searle, pictured in 2013. Picture by Kate Shemilt.
Rachel Searle, pictured in 2013. Picture by Kate Shemilt.

A Blakefest organiser has admitted mistakes were made with marketing and licenses.

The comments follow the announcement this week that the Bognor Regis based festival this weekend, originally planned as an outdoor event ‘which could attract 5,000 people’, will now be held in two pubs and without headliners The Lightning Seeds.

Rachel Searle said: “The first issue was Hotham Park. We were led to believe we had Hotham Park and on that basis of that we went about putting deposits on bands and on that basis we started marketing.

“In hindsight that was a mistake and we learn from mistakes, there was never an intent to mislead.”

She added: “As soon as the Hotham Park thing finished, everything, from that point, has been rushed - it was that or close it down.

“But due to the numbers that are interested we didn’t want to not do something this year. Not because of us, but because of the opportunity for the town.”

At a special meeting planned for Tuesday, September 13, Arun was set to discuss three applications for temporary event notices for Blakefest that it had received on August 31.

The agenda noted it was an ‘unusual situation’ as the applications were all for the same date and ‘three adjoining plots within one sports field’ but no ‘existing or proposed segregation’ between them.

Each was for the maximum of 499 people.

Mrs Searle said this was done following advice from a ‘safety consultant’ and that ‘all we were trying to do was keep it outside so families could come along’.

She added: “We failed on that so we tried to get a single licence, which we failed at, too.”

As a result the decision was made to move to Legends on the pier for the Saturday and Seafish, in Aldwick, on the Sunday, which Ms Searle jointly runs.

The latter, due to fire regulations, can hold a maximum of 85 people and as such ‘couldn’t accommodate’ the Lightning Seeds – which is why, according to Mrs Searle, the band pulled out.

She said: “We have had some refund requests, which is a good thing as it means smaller numbers now and a lot of them were families, which makes sense.

“It is a shame families couldn’t be accommodated but that isn’t down to us - we couldn’t get the licence, but the people who want to come will still come.”

Mrs Searle added, throughout everything, it has been ‘very important to us that this [event] will happen’.

“It is vital that we are shown to deliver and get the job done. We are building important relationships and it is vital to prove Bognor Regis is a good venue to host such events.”