A question mark hangs over the future of the popular Northchapel Steam Rally after organisers Sue Moss and Len Finch were forced to cancel this year’s event due to illness.
Sue is recovering after suffering a heart attack in March and Len’s wife Daph is undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy following a major brain tumour operation in April.
But this week Len revealed he and Sue had already been considering the future of the weekend event which takes place annually at the end of August, because of the growing cost of health and safety regulations. They have raised more than £30,000 for charities in the past ten years.
But said Len: “It costs us somewhere in the region of £10,000 to put on the event and this is money, a lot of which, could have gone to lots of charities. Each year there is less and less to give to charity because the costs keep going up and up.”
Last year Len and Sue were able to donate some £2,600 to the Dame Vera Lynn Trust for Children with Cerebral Palsy: “this isn’t a sum to be sniffed at, “ said Len, “but over the last couple of years health and safety regulations have cost us a lot of money and taken up many hours of time and we wondered whether the event was still viable or whether it had run its course.”
Among the extra burdens placed on the organisers due to the regulations are the provision of evacuation plans from the field, which take time and expertise to prepare. They have also been told to provide fire extinguishers around the site at Horton’s Farm.
“Each year I have to go and meet council safety, fire and police officers and provide a safety plan,” said Len and for every event there was more work required.
In addition he said public liability insurance was now “astronomical.”
Len said he had intended to put the event on this year himself, despite Sue’s illness, but when his wife Daph’s brain tumour was diagnosed he had to shelve his plans.
He has written to all exhibitors explaining the situation, but he and Sue intend to put on a ‘make or break’ event next year.
“But we will be able to judge at the time how we do on the gate and make a decision about the future.”
Staunch supporter of the rally David Cole said this week: “Len and Daph Finch, together with Sue Moss have been responsible for the rally which brought trundling tractors, steam engines and every kind of country agricultural antiquity to the friendliest of events every August. They are worthy and hard working people who deserve a pat on the back and a big thank you.”