G&S says farewell to Buxton after 20 years

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Opera house and council chiefs have expressed disappointment at the loss of the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton following news it is to move to Harrogate.

The organisers of the popular Gilbert and Sullivan Festival have announced it will take place in Harrogate next year.

In a letter, festival chairman, Ian Smith said: “We have been concerned at rising costs of the opera house – and quite frankly we can no longer afford the rates.”

Mr Smith claimed the opera house was adding a charge of £1 to every ticket sold, which would equate to more than £20,000 extra next year.

“We have been pushing High Peak Borough Council to give us some idea of their mid–term planning for over two years,” he added. “We were promised decisions, but despite repeated requests from ourselves nothing happened.”

Mr Smith said the council informed him it was cutting grant funding only 14 weeks before the festival was due to start.

In a joint statement, opera house chairman Clive Beattie and chief executive Andrew Aughton said: “We’re obviously disappointed that the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival organisers have decided to move on. We were quite open to a new five–year agreement, although on slightly amended lines to the previous one.

“However, any suggestion that new charges of £20,000 were to be introduced is completely untrue – we hadn’t even begun talking terms yet.

“We have subsidised the festival’s rent of the opera house for 11 years, at a total of nearly £100,000, in order to keep the festival in Buxton, and were quite prepared to keep doing this.

“We have also reduced their overall bill for 2013 by £5,000 compared to 2012. This is on top of the £40,000 per year donated in free use of the Pavilion Gardens by the council, which was also on the table for a further five years.”

Council leader Caitlin Bisknell said: “We are disappointed that the festival organisers have made this decision. We made it very clear to them that we were willing to discuss a further multi–year arrangement and that offer remains on the table.

“We have had to make some difficult decisions and the financial pressures we face mean we can no longer justify supporting the festival to the same level as previous years. We have to balance our priorities and providing services to our residents has to take precedence. I realise that it is a blow particularly for many local businesses and we are already working to ensure that new events and performances are in place not just next year but in following years too.”