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Last Updated: Monday, 19 January, 2004, 09:36 GMT
Festivals could lose cash
Charles Dickens
Council funding could be withdrawn from the annual Dickens festivals
Two popular festivals which raise more than 1m could lose council cash.

Medway Council is being urged to drop its 200,000 annual subsidy of the Dickens and Sweeps festivals after claims the money should be spent elsewhere.

Three members of the council believe the profitable events, which attract more than 100,000 people, should be self-funding.

They want the money spent by the council diverted to social services and education.

The Dickens festival, in June, has been running since 1979, while the Christmas Dickens festival, in December, began nine years later.

Both take place in Rochester and have grown to become international events.

The Sweeps festival, one of the largest gatherings of folk and traditional dancers in the world, takes its inspiration, name, and May date from the holiday given to boy chimney sweeps.

I believe the festivals should continue. They are very popular and supported by people in the Medway towns, drawing in people from outside.
Councillor Paul Foster
Paul Foster, the Conservative member for Rainham Central Ward, is one of the three councillors calling for self-funding.

He told BBC Radio Kent that various other options, including sponsorship and money from local traders, should be considered.

"I believe the festivals should continue. They are very popular and supported by people in the Medway towns, drawing in people from outside.

"All I'm suggesting is that perhaps we should look at it becoming more self-funding than it currently is," he said.

A Medway Council spokesman defended the use of council funds for the festivals, saying they brought "significant economic benefits to Medway".

He said the combined benefit of both of the Dickensian festivals to Medway's economy was around 3m.

"The festivals are internationally renowned and provide a unique opportunity to showcase Medway.

"They also enable Medway residents to celebrate their rich heritage," he said.

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