Tall ship crew criticises sea festival
A TALL ship crew has launched a scathing attack on the recent International Festival of the Sea, claiming it has damaged Leith’s reputation as a major centre for maritime shows.
The crew of the Leith-based Jean de la Lune said they feared the heavily criticised festival would eclipse previous success stories such as the 1995 Tall Ships Race.
And they are worried the public and funding bodies will confuse the events, leading to problems staging similar ones in the future.
The Jean de la Lune’s shore manager, Fiona Brown, said she was concerned that the "failure" of the festival would jeopardise Leith’s chances of ever again hosting the Tall Ships Race.
She said: "We were disappointed by the level of organisation prior to the festival, with the poor marketing and with the facilities for vessels at the festival itself.
"We feel, in common with everyone we have spoken to, that the 15 ticket price was far too high and we also deride the pathetic excuses offered by the organisers for the low turnout.
"Now it’s all over bar the shouting and we find that, in addition to leaving a sour taste, the festival has left a large debt to be paid from taxpayers’ money."
Ms Brown said the event was in sharp contrast to the 1995 Tall Ships Race, which was still remembered in the "most positive way", with tall ships skippers around the world still raving about the event in Leith.
"It was well organised with excellent facilities for the ships and crews, had free entry for the public and was spectacularly popular," she said.
"The positive impact upon Leith was huge and the previously run-down image was transformed as the docks and Shore buzzed with a carnival atmosphere. Many local people were excited when they heard that the festival was coming in 2003 because they thought it would be like the Tall Ships.
"I hope that, should Leith be fortunate enough to host the Tall Ships Race again, that people won’t stay away because they think it’s going to be like the International Festival of the Sea.
"I also hope the public disillusionment caused by the festival can be kept separate from the massive success of the Tall Ships in the minds of the council, the Scottish Executive, the tourist board, Forth Ports and the public."
Around 50,000 people paid to attend the festival at Leith Docks at the beginning of last month - a third of the number originally expected. Many local people and traders involved in the event blamed high ticket prices for the low turnout. Admission costs were 15 for adults and 7.50 for children.
And it emerged after the festival that taxpayers would be faced with a 650,000 bill to bale out the event. The cash, to be paid by Edinburgh council and Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and the Lothians, came on top of 100,000 given to organisers by the Scottish Executive.
But festival chairman Peter Workman refused to blame problems on the high cost of tickets and added that it was probably the last time such a prestigious event could be held in Leith.
He said: "The real problem we had when we planned this two and a half years ago was that September 11 hadn’t happened and the economy was more buoyant. The Forth Ports plans did not work out as we expected and areas we thought would be available to us were being used for other purposes. A lot of things changed.
"But in another six months there will have been so much development in Leith that holding a festival such as this again will not be possible anyway. It may be possible to hold another tall ships race because that doesn’t use the facilities on the shore."
A spokeswoman for Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board said they would continue to support similar festivals in the future despite the disappointment of the festival.
She said: "Many visitors come here because of the attraction of a particular festival. It makes sense, therefore, for us to continue to support future events, especially maritime festivals that would feature Leith’s rich history."
And Paul Lewis, the executive director of Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian, said: "Despite lower than expected visitor figures, the International Festival of the Sea still delivered significant economic benefit to Leith and the surrounding area.
"Edinburgh and Leith will continue to excel in staging events and festivals of different kinds and Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian is committed to supporting Leith in staging such events.
"This is clearly demonstrated in our involvement in the forthcoming MTV Europe Music Awards."
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Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
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Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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