‘A shame for the people of Chesterfield’ – Motor Fest organiser slams council decision to cancel event

The organiser of a popular Chesterfield motor event has criticised the council for opting not to hold it this year.
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Earlier this week, Chesterfield Borough Council revealed that they had cancelled the town centre Motor Fest, which was attended by thousands in 2018 and 2019.

Adrian Ashton, who organised the event along with Beverley Thomas, said they had set it up after being approached by the council.

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“The council had approached me and Beverly to try and get some footfall back into the town centre. At that time, they had a market manager, and he said: ‘the town is dying’, what can we do to get footfall?

A number of exciting motors have graced Chesterfield’s cobbles during the event. 
Credit: Eric GregoryA number of exciting motors have graced Chesterfield’s cobbles during the event. 
Credit: Eric Gregory
A number of exciting motors have graced Chesterfield’s cobbles during the event. Credit: Eric Gregory

“We ended up putting on the show, and it proved that it could get people into the town centre – within two events, it has now proved two big for the town, as the council are saying.”

Adrian said that they had suggested different places to host the event in 2022, but the council were not receptive.

“Last year, there was no reason the event couldn’t have gone forward, but they dragged it on using the excuse of Covid.

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“We have offered alternative sites, and smaller, more regular events, but they just didn’t want them.

“We’ve started two smaller events in the meantime, which we’re running down at Olympia House – both of which have proved a success too.”

Adrian also said that the show was a boost to the entire town centre, with other businesses reaping the benefits of the busy event.

“If someone asks us and wants a great event, we’ll organise that and tell you what people want in the town. We had a small event at the Batch House, and the guy who organised it said it was a great success. That’s what you need to get footfall at places – you need to offer something else to get people down.

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“During the last Motor Fest, the Greggs in the Precinct ran out of all sandwiches and pasties, and one of the chip shops ran out of potatoes. These two businesses asked us to let them know when we were coming back so they could order more stuff in.

“We’re giving these businesses a small injection and helping get people back into the town centre. I find it quite ironic. There’s people employed in the council to get footfall back into the town, and when two individuals show them how to do it, why don’t they take that on board?”

Adrian added that the show would continue at an alternative venue, but said it was a shame that it would not return to the town centre.

“It’s always been about getting people back into the town centre for me and Bev – we’d had offers and could’ve taken it to other places, but it was about helping the town. The motor show will still exist – Chatsworth were very interested, but not until 2023 as they’ve got their event calendar sorted for this year.

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Matlock Bath is a Mecca for motorcycles, and it’s never been organised, it’s just evolved. If Chesterfield took that on board, they could evolve it into a place where people can come along every Sunday and bring their classic cars.

“The council need to embrace that, and then the footfall will come. People would travel from all over the country and get to see what Chesterfield is really like. It’s got a lot to offer – there’s nice buildings, a good atmosphere and nice people.

“Unfortunately, it looks like the council don’t want events that will bring mass footfall into the town. It’s a shame for the people of Chesterfield.”

A Chesterfield Borough Council spokesperson said: “In reviewing the borough events programme, the council and our partners have given careful consideration to a number of issues relating to the future safety and viability of Motor Fest. The last event in 2019 identified concerns regarding overall event safety – concerns which were heightened given the organisers’ desire to grow this already large-scale event.

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“Having considered a range of information and options, we concluded that the proposed scale and format of this event has become too large for the pedestrianised town centre, and as a result, poses a risk to public safety. We have worked closely with the organisers, offering event management support to try and overcome some of the concerns, but unfortunately it has not been possible to reach an agreed way forward to deliver a safe event.

“We appreciate that this is a popular event that has served the town well, and that many people will be disappointed in this news – but public safety must be our priority and the council is committed to supporting the organisers to search for a more suitable venue.

“We remain committed to do all we can to encourage people to safely visit and stay in our town centre, to support local businesses and ensure Chesterfield remains an attractive destination to visit. In reviewing our events provision for this year we are progressing a number of key events which will attract significant numbers of visitors, and increased footfall into the town centre – these include the 1940s Market and Medieval Fun Day.”