Rail fans on the move

AN exhibition enjoyed by thousands of model railway enthusiasts from across the county is being forced to move out of Ipswich next year.The Ipswich Railway Modellers Association usually hold their annual exhibition at the Northgate sports centre, but a huge increase in hiring charges means they are no longer able to afford to stage the show in the town.

AN exhibition enjoyed by thousands of model railway enthusiasts from across the county is being forced to move out of Ipswich next year.

The Ipswich Railway Modellers Association usually hold their annual exhibition at the Northgate sports centre, but a huge increase in hiring charges means they are no longer able to afford to stage the show in the town.

Ken Welton, exhibition manager, said: "We have been holding our annual exhibition at Northgate since 1992 and during that time have built it up to be the premier event in East Anglia surpassing Norwich, Colchester and Cambridge.

"The quality of our shows is such that this year we were featured on Anglia TV and attracted layouts from Holland and Belgium as well as exhibitors and traders from all parts of the UK."


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Mr Welton said that there has been a 47pc rise in the amount the association are being asked to pay this year and criticised Ipswich Borough Council's "inflexible attitude."

This year the group paid £1,700 to hire the halls for two days. Next year, the price would rise to £2,500.

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He said: "We are treated as a commercial enterprise rather than a local voluntary organisation. The result is that, reluctantly, we have been forced to move outside the town to a non-Ipswich borough council venue."

The group are hoping the exhibition will be held at the Kesgrave community centre next November, but Mr Welton said this would mean planning next year's show all over again: "We usually book up the exhibitors a year in advance and many of the stands at next year's exhibition were already booked.

"Changing the date and the venue means we will have to start all over again from scratch."

A spokesman for Ipswich council said they had tried their best to accommodate the society and would be sad to see the exhibition move elsewhere.

He said: "We actually don't charge the society the full commercial rate, despite the fact that they collect money at the door, because we are keen to support the event.

"The centre has to virtually close for the whole weekend and we lose thousands of pounds in revenue.

"But we do want to keep the event in Ipswich and have offered the group various discounts to try and keep the price down. It will be very sad if they decide to take the exhibition out of the town."

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