Financial problems force cancellation of first Portsmouth Air Festival

The Red Arrows were to have taken part at the air show
The Red Arrows were to have taken part at the air show
Picture: Malcolm Wells

Five reasons to buy Friday’s News - including The Guide entertainments pullout

Have your say

PORTSMOUTH’S first-ever air festival has been cancelled because of a lack of support and sponsorship.

Organisers said they are ‘deeply disappointed’ not to be able to go ahead with the event, which was expected to attract up to 250,000 visitors.

Among the problems they faced were increasing insurance bills, the reluctance of businesses to give their backing in such an event-filled year, and a clash with Pompey’s home game against Bournemouth.

The world-famous RAF Red Arrows were booked to appear alongside the Breitling Wingwalkers, Second World War Spitfire planes and an old Royal Navy Sea Vixen fighter.

Originally planned for Saturday, August 18, the team behind it now hopes the show will take place on August 10 and 11 next year – and they insist that by postponing it they will be able to put on a bigger and better show.

Festival director of communications Matt George said: ‘While it is immensely disappointing for all involved it was the only decision that was realistically available to us, postponing the event allows us to put the appropriate level of finances in place in order to do the show and the Portsmouth public justice.

‘It’s also not as simple as just the finances – there have been other unforeseen challenges mounting recently including the low amount of available runway space for jet aircraft because of the Olympics and the added pressure on our city’s infrastructure that the Portsmouth versus Bournemouth game will cause.

‘When you finally add in the unpredictability of the current weather, and the potential that has to ruin our park and ride provisions, it’s just become completely uncontrollable.

‘Come next year at least half of these issues will hopefully be a distant memory.’

He added that the festival had benefited from support from the council – such as it waiving the £8,000 fee for using Southsea Common – but in the end competing with the London Olympics for sponsorship had proved too difficult.

David Williams, Portsmouth City Council chief executive, added: ‘It is a great shame that Portsmouth Air Festival has been postponed this year, but I can understand the difficulties faced in the current climate.

‘We hope the organisers will be able to secure substantial sponsorship so the event can go ahead next year.’

City leaders still have hopes for 2013 show

CITY leaders have said they hope the Portsmouth Air Festival will have a better chance of getting off the ground next year.

After the postponement of this year’s event was announced, Lib Dem cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport Cllr Lee Hunt said the air show would still have the council’s full backing.

‘It is a great shame it won’t be going ahead this year,’ he said.

‘It sounded like it would have been a great event, but the hurdles this year were just too high.

‘I’m glad to hear they’re going to try again next year and we will definitely do everything we can to support them – but our resources can only stretch so far.

‘They have had a lot against them, such as the Olympics and the torch relay, so next year they will stand a better chance next year when less is going on.’

Cllr Lee Mason, Tory culture, leisure and sport spokesman, said: ‘It’s definitely a shame. When we had a briefing from the organisers about it we were all really excited.

‘It would be great to have an air show in Portsmouth, it would put us on the map even more than we are already.

‘I’m quite sad really – the city is going to miss out. But it’s good that they are going to come back next year.’

Labour leader Cllr Jim Patey said the cancellation would not go down well with people outside the city who had booked hotels and were planning to travel for the event.

‘It shouldn’t have been left so late in my view,’ he said. ‘It’s very disappointing to let people down at the eleventh hour. A bit of a bitter pill to swallow.

‘But the council really has to shoulder some responsibility and make sure it definitely goes ahead next year.’