Leamington Peace Festival committee must pay for use of gardens

Organisers of the Leamington Peace Festival, which takes place this weekend, are determined for it to remain a free event - even though, for the first time in its 35-year history, they are being charged to run it.

On Saturday and Sunday, the volunteer-run festival will take over the Pump Room Gardens - with its range of stalls, workshops, peace talks, campaigns, performances and eclectic offering of vegetarian food - but Warwick District Council has asked the committee to pay for its use of the space.

In a statement from the committee sent to the Courier, organisers said: “We understand the financial reasons behind this measure and would like to stress that we still receive strong support from the council.

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“But it is indicative of a cultural shift that has occurred in Britain, in which everything has a price. And if it has no price it has no value.

“We disagree. We believe that the most valuable aspects of life are those that cannot be priced.”

Referring to the late Margaret Thatcher’s famous statement, ‘There is no such thing as society’, the committee said: “We believe in society. We believe in community. We believe in co-operation and mutual aid. We believe in sharing - our skills and our knowledge. We believe that together we can make the world a better place.”

Pointing out that organising such a large festival requires them to pay for infrastructure, insurance and for entertainers, the committee said that the two-day event would remain free to attend, with no charge for listening to live music or taking part in children’s activities. While individual stall-holders may charge for food, drink and participation in workshops, people are welcome to bring their own food and drink - so there is no need for visitors to spend any money if they do not want to.

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The committee said: “We believe that in a world driven more and more by money and greed this is a radical statement. We believe that the most important aspect of the Peace Festival is that it is run entirely by volunteers.”

More volunteers are needed for next year’s festival. Anyone interested in finding out more can attend the committee’s post-festival meeting on Wednesday at the Brunswick Healthy Living Centre in Shrubland Street, Leamington, from 7.45pm. There will be another meeting at the same venue on October 9. Alternatively, call 07985 647507, email [email protected] or search for ‘Leamington Peace Festival’ on Facebook.

This weekend’s event will feature a new dance and performance area, at which talents from around Warwickshire and Coventry will be showcased.

There will also be the usual range of handmade and ethical goods on sale, food and drink stands, charity stalls and opportunities to try out massage, Tai Chi, meditation, maths busking, drumming and many other activities. For a full programme, visit www.peacefestival.org.uk