New format but the Ashfield Show goes on

Ashfield show 2011'Stacey Soloman
Ashfield show 2011'Stacey Soloman

COUNCIL leaders have stepped back from calls to scrap Ashfield Show completely as they agreed a radical transformation of the event this week.

The annual show will be moved forward to late June or early July and combined with the Active Ashfield Games to give people in the district a chance to feel part of the London 2012 Olympic celebrations.

Ashfield District Council bosses say the move will save £20,000, but they turned down an option to save even more money by cancelling the show altogether.

A cabinet meeting on Thursday was told that feedback from the public suggested overwhelming support for retaining the Ashfield Show - with 92 per cent of those asked saying it was good value.

But Independent councillor Gail Turner repeated her calls to scrap the event to safeguard vital services.

“If we are saving money then I do think that’s a good step forward,” the Selston councillor said.

“I would have taken another step and I wouldn’t have had Ashfield Show at the minute because of the costs.

“I would look to see how much having an extra £120,000 in the kitty would help with the jobs front and our services.

“Can we keep all these services? Can we keep these vital things that people value?”

Ashfield Show, which last year saw X-Factor finalist Stacey Solomon entertain the crowds, is traditionally held at Sutton Lawn in August and attracts up to 15,000 residents.

But the cabinet’s decision means the event will be brought forward to late June or early July ahead of the London Olympic Games, which will take place between 27th July and 12th August.

According to officials, the new-look event would include a ‘larger, more exciting’ opening ceremony for the Ashfield Active Games and could include an extension of sports and activities over a two-week period.

The celebrations are set to culminate with a closing ceremony with family attractions, sports, dance, music, drama and an evening concert with fireworks.

The proposals mean that the cost of hosting the event will be cut by £20,000, reducing the budget to £105,500.

Deputy council leader John Wilmott said: “Last year, Ashfield Show was a great success with thousands of Ashfield residents enjoying the delights it had offer.

“This event is a valuable asset to some of the residents who would not otherwise have the means to attend such a show.”

And council leader John Knight said: “I thought it was very good this year. Next year it is going to be even better because we are incorporating the sporting element to commemorate the Olympic Games.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Jason Zadrozny slammed the decision, saying it represents the ‘gentle erosion’ of Ashfield Show as people know it.

Coun Zadrozny is a well-known supporter of Ashfield Show and when he was leader of the council made it a two-day event and booked A-list pop band the Sugababes to perform at the evening concert.

He said: “I think it’s quite sad.

“Ashfield Show was there to split up the six weeks’ holiday; now it will fall in the period when the children are still at school.

“By merging it with something else, it also detracts from it. This is the gentle erosion to something smaller.

“For a lot of people, it is their holiday, particularly in these difficult economic times - they are making more of staying at home. What the council should be doing is finding a way for it to be more community driven.

“I am happy to see it with Ashfield Active Games, but that’s an enormous event in its own right and it could be swamped.”

He added that he wanted to work with other councillors on the planning of next year’s show.