'Dead as a dodo' Emsworth Food Festival bites the dust

A hugely popular food festival is unlikely to return despite strong support from residents and businesses.

The organisers of Emsworth Food Festival say resurrecting the event would be an uphill battle due to spiralling costs and red tape.

Lulu Bowerman, one of four directors running the event, described the festival as a 'political hot potato' which had divided opinion in Emsworth.

She said 'new blood' taking on the organisation of the event could be the only glimmer of hope for the festival's future.

The three-day September event was Emsworth's annual headliner from 2001 to 2007, with more than 50,000 visitors visiting the town.

But it became a victim of its own success as the crowds of people in the streets meant the centre had to be closed to traffic. Since its demise, the festival has continued to be a contentious issue, with many saying it had become too big for Emsworth.

But the community interest company that ran the festival has not been officially wound up. There is now growing support for a return of the festival in 2011.

David Linington, of Maisemore Gardens, Emsworth, who helped to organise the event, said: 'I'm quite confident that a lot of people in the village would welcome its return. It would be possible to find someone in the village who could take it on.

'It was run on a voluntary basis for seven years very successfully. The bit about it antagonising people is greatly exaggerated.'

Peter McIntyre, landlord of The Coal Exchange in Emsworth, said: 'I'd love to see it back.'

Mrs Bowerman, from Emsworth, said taking on the event required a huge amount of organisation, including organising a large number of wardens and sponsorship deals. She said: 'It's time for new people to come forward and raise the money, go to the council and the rest of it.'

Councillor Brendan Gibb-Gray, also chairman of Emsworth Business Association, said: 'In its current format, it's as dead as a dodo. I accept there are a lot of people who want it.

'But in my view it's past its best before date.'

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