Marlborough Jazz Festival ‘won’t go ahead in current form’ in 2017

Written by Peter Davison on .

Music lovers enjoy strolling between venues at the 2016 festivalMusic lovers enjoy strolling between venues at the 2016 festivalMusic-lovers strolling between pubs to hear jazz music in Marlborough’s historic High Street is a thing of the past.

Organisers of the Marlborough International Jazz Festival say they cannot continue with the ‘Stroller’ element of the event, which sees thousands of punters move between 18 pubs, marquees and even the Fire Station to enjoy performances by numerous bands.

Instead, festival founder Nick Fogg told Marlborough News Online, Marlborough Arts Association might concentrate on a small number of ticketed performances in the town’s larger venues.

“The festival won’t be in its current form,” he said.

The stroller and the road closure have been a feature of the festival – which runs from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon over a weekend in July – for 20 years.

The decision was reached after Wiltshire Council’s refusal of a road closure order until 5pm on the Saturday of this summer’s event. In light of Wiltshire Council’s decision, organisers decided to forgo a closure altogether.

The council had come under increasing pressure from a group of around 70 High Street traders – the Marlborough High Street Retailers Association – who had said they were losing thousands of pounds each every year, and were requesting a later closure on Saturday to allow normal trading conditions.

The festival organisers insist the event is good for the town’s economy and reputation. Organisers estimate that the festival, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, has brought £10m into the town.

Nick Fogg, one of the founders of the festival, told Marlborough News Online: “because of the hazards of road safety, we feel it would be irresponsible to continue with the stroller element of the festival.

“We cannot ask people to take their lives into their hands.”

Mr Fogg said that in one ‘near miss’ accident during this year’s festival a van swerved to avoid a group of people and hit the wall of Pino’s Italian restaurant at the junction of New Road and The Parade.

“We have had a risk assessment carried out by NFU Mutual,” he said, “and they found that the risk of injury in New Road was in the top category.”

Mr Fogg said organisers had been required to make an early decision about the festival in 2017 because negotiations with artists – who come from all over the world – traditionally take place during the autumn months, and hotels were asking for confirmation of the 2017 dates.

He said negotiations with Wiltshire Council over a road closure in 2018 would continue. “To lose the road closure after 20 years is depressing,” he said.

Marlborough News Online has contacted Wiltshire Council and Marlborough High Street Retailers Association for comment.