Trouble ahead (or behind) for Greenbelt festival?

Greenbelt was held at Cheltenham Race Course for 15 years, until last year, when it relocated to a greenfield site in Boughton, near Kettering.

Greenbelt festival, a summer Christian arts and justice festival, has experienced financial difficulty in recent months, and has had to shrink the size of this year's event.

The Chair of Greenbelt trustees, Andy Turner, wrote a blog on the festival's website this week with a frank acknowledgement of the financial difficulties that they have experienced in the past six months.

"Most people reading this won't know how choppy the waters can get for a small independent annual festival but once or twice in the past few months we wondered if the good ship Greenbelt might capsize," he wrote.

For the August 2014 festival, Greenbelt had to relocate from Cheltenham Race Course, where the festival had been hosted for the previous 15 years, to a greenfield site in Boughton, near Kettering.

As a result they saw a decline in attendance, as well as facing additional costs from using the new site, which is undeveloped land.

They were forced to use all of their financial reserves and ended up having to borrow money. Greenbelt issued a request for support at the end of 2014 in a bid to secure its future, and have since raised about £100,000 from donations.

Turner said that it seems the festival has now "weathered the worst of the storm", though the future remains uncertain.

In the blog, Turner wrote a list of the nine questions that the festival organisers have been forced to ask in recent months, including why they have seen declining attendance for the past five years, and whether there was still sufficient demand for the event. They also considered where the festival should choose to focus its energies and how to attract a younger audience.

The outcome has been a shrinking of the operation – both in terms of numbers and scope.

They have decided to put an initial 5,000 tickets on sale until Easter Monday, to ensure that they are working within a clear budget. The demand so far has been clear with 3,000 selling in the first few weeks. But this initial figure that has been set is substantially less than the 10,500 who bought tickets last year.

Whether they will be able to expand the number of tickets available if sufficient demand is demonstrated remains to be seen. "It may be that these 5,000 are all we put on sale for this year, that we develop a new festival from this smaller base," Turner wrote.

"We have to find out who are the people who will take the Festival into the next chapter – and where they want to go with it," he concluded.

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