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ARTSFEST REPRIEVE.....AS CARNIVAL FACES AXE

17-09-2007

Birmingham's Artsfest has been saved after an extraordinary Council U-turn - but the city's Carnival faces an uncertain future after competing sound systems repeatedly broke noise limits.

Only last November, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture Ray Hassall told The Stirrer that Artsfest was too elitist, and that he wanted it replaced by a more popular event, possibly called Brumfest.

He had hoped to wield the axe immediately, but consented to this year's event going ahead because so much preliminary work had already been done. More recent soundings suggested that he might be preparing to back-track even further, with Artsfest possibly continuing biannually.

Now he's reversed his original position completely, saying that after a weekend when (according to Council estimates) more than 200,000 people turned out for this year's Artsfest, it should be staged every year.

So what's prompted the change of heart?

"The reorganisation has totally paid off, and it's been very successful" Hassall explained.

"Wherever I've been, it's been packed. The question now is how do we look at adding to that?

"The arts team have gone away and brought back something that's really hit home.

"Bringing ballet, opera and the CBSO all together in Centenary Square on the Saturday night paid off absolutely. I'm staggered at the way it all came together".

While Artsfest has enjoyed an unexpected reprieve, Birmingham's carnival which takes place every two years, could lose it's funding because of noise complaints from local residents.

The event dew an estimated 80,000-100,000 revellers to Perry Park in August, but nearby residents were angered by the volume generated by competing sound systems.

Hassall said: "Somebody has lost the plot over Carnival. It was extremely loud, way in excess of acceptable sound levels.

"The approach seems to be - 'who's got the biggest sound system, and who can blow who out of the water?'

"If it's a competition about who can make most noise, residents might take legal action. We're going to have to meet the organisers and tell them they are jeopardising the event by allowing people to compete with each other like this."

To see Pete Millington's pictures from Carnival click here

Is it a good decision to keep Artsfest as an annual event? And has Carnival become an overbearing sonic soundclash? Leave a comment on the Message Board.

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