Charity festival’s £4,000 loss puts future in jeopardy

IN DANGER: A performer at last year's festival.
IN DANGER: A performer at last year's festival.
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The future of a charity music festival held in memory of a Sudbury man who died from meningitis is under threat after it made a loss of £4,000.

The third annual Big Bear Fest was held in Great Notley Country Park, Braintree, two weeks ago to commemorate the life of Sam Bearman, a Sudbury man who died from meningitis in January 2011 aged 24.

Sam’s mum Cindy and step-dad Lee Barrett organise the festival, which features local bands and raised £5,000 for Meningitis UK in its first year before last year’s festival just broke even.

“We thought we’d have the most people ever this year but it just didn’t happen, despite us advertising and handing out leaflets,” said Mrs Barrett, who lives in Catesby Meadow, Sudbury.

“We ended up with a shortfall which was really disappointing and has hit us financially as well. In total, it is more than £4,000.”

Mrs Barrett said Essex County Council had made preparations very difficult and more costly than in previous years, when the festival was held firstly at Hedingham Castle and then at The Cherry Tree in Belchamp St Paul.

“We had so much grief from the county council – it made it as difficult as it could,” she said.

“It wouldn’t let us use the venue’s licence and charged £1,600 to use the site when it knew this was a charity event. We also had to have so many more stewards and security than previous years.”

Plans for the inaugural festival attracted four complaints, while last year it was held on a temporary event notice following a noise complaint.

A spokeswoman for Essex County Council said it does not hire its parks free of charge as the income helps maintain them for general use.

“It is the responsibility of the event organiser to comply with legal, security and health and safety requirements,” she said.

“To help the organiser, we provided them with support throughout the process. This level of support would not have been provided for a professional event organiser and we are disappointed that they feel aggrieved.”

Mrs Barrett said: “There is no way we will be able to put the event on again unless we get some help.”

She is urging people to join the Big Bear Fest 500 Club for a £5 monthly fee to help pay for next year’s event, or make one-off donations.

Go to bigbearfest.org for more details or to donate.