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Ipswich: Beer festival doubt after date change

PUBLISHED: 14:30 31 January 2014

Mayor Mary Blake joined Nigel Smith of CAMRA at the opening of the 30th Ipswich Beer Festivall in 2012.

Mayor Mary Blake joined Nigel Smith of CAMRA at the opening of the 30th Ipswich Beer Festivall in 2012.

A massive question mark today hangs over the future of Suffolk’s largest beer festival.

The Ipswich Beer Festival has been held on the town’s Waterfront as part of the Maritime Festival since 2011, but a change in date this year means that is not possible.

There are fears that after 31 festivals, the event might not happen in the town unless a new venue and date can be found.

Organiser Nigel Smith, from the Ipswich and East Suffolk branch of Camra, said: “This year’s Maritime Festival has been brought forward a week.

“It now clashes with the Great British Beer Festival in London – and we cannot hold the Ipswich festival at the same time.”

The Ipswich festival borrows equipment from Camra’s national body, and that will be needed at the London event.

Also many Camra members from Suffolk head off to London for the country’s largest beer festival – which would make it difficult to staff the event.

Mr Smith said he was now looking for an alternative venue and date – although this was not an easy task. Up to 2010 the festival was held at the Corn Exchange, but this is no longer an option.

He said: “We have lost the ground floor of the Corn Exchange which was very important to us. If we went back there we would have to charge £4-£5 a head entrance to cover the costs of the event, and we could only have 600 people there at a time and there would be long queues.

“We’d like to have another outdoor summer venue, but we are still looking to see what is available. It may be that we have smaller pop-up festivals in future.”

Ipswich councillor for leisure Bryony Rudkin said that the beer festival was an important highlight of the town’s summer and the borough would be keen to work with Camra to ensure it could continue in some form.

She said: “This is the first I have heard of a threat to the festival, and we shall be in contact with the organisers from Camra as soon as possible to see how we can work together to try to help them find a venue.”

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