A FESTIVAL which attracts thousands of people has been cancelled because of a row.
The Havant Multicultural Festival was due to take place in Havant Park next Saturday.
Last year the celebration of music, food and art from different cultures attracted more than 4,000 people.
But, with just weeks to go and bands and stalls booked, the organisers took the decision to cancel because of a fall-out with the new chairman of Havant Multicultural Forum – which is where the festival originated from.
Seven original members of the forum resigned in recent months and sources say it was because relations with the new forum chairman Dawn Djokey had became so strained.
Ms Djokey said she was only concerned that the organisation of the festival was transparent but the organisers say she put obstacles in the way of the free community event.
One former member of the festival committee, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It is so sad because we all worked so hard. Last year was very, very successful but we could not go on.
‘We found it so difficult to work that, due to insecurity over what would happen, the festival was cancelled.’
Hampshire County Council, Havant Borough Council and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Fund all funded the festival but withdrew their support in recent weeks.
The former member added: ‘We are a non-profit organisation. We did not organise the festival to make money.
‘The festival was organised to promote the forum and for the people of Havant to come together and enjoy themselves.
‘It makes us happy to see everyone sharing experiences and cultures.’
But they said they reached a ‘crisis situation’.
Arts consultant Charlie Fletcher, who works on many large-scale public events, was brought in to book bands for the festival after his success last year.
But he too said he could not continue to support the event without the help of the forum.
He said: ‘All committee members and partners received clear information on the progress of the festival during the planning of the event.
‘Following the withdrawal of support from three main partners supporting the event, and the resignation of several key members of the forum, I felt that it would be prudent to seek reassurances from the forum that the festival would still take place, that all funds were in place, and that I and the acts I had booked would be paid.
‘I also submitted an invoice for work carried out to date.
‘Following three unsuccessful attempts and when no reassurances were forthcoming, I took the decision to withdraw my support.
‘To date, the invoice for work undertaken has not been settled.’
Ms Djokey was made chairman of the forum at the first forum meeting she attended in November after no-one else stepped forward to take over the role.
She said: ‘The Havant Multicultural Festival has been running as if it were a separate entity from the Havant Multicultural Forum.
‘The forum members wanted to be involved in the organisation of the festival, not alienated from it as has been the case, and not just to be used as a provider of a bank account for funding received for the festival.
‘The vision of the forum was side-tracked to become a vehicle for the multicultural festival only.’
She added: ‘The forum is in the process of putting its house in order and to get back on track with its vision that was side-tracked. We intend to resume the multicultural festival from 2014.
‘We would like the public to be aware that the main aim of the forum is not just the festival. It is about community cohesion, of which the festival is one of the several activities to achieve it.’