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Fundraiser launched to save Morecambe's longest-running music festival as grant row rumbles on

Nice 'n' Sleazy organiser Samantha Harrison promoting the campaign to save the festival at a Premier League darts event in Liverpool on Thursday

A fundraiser is under way to save Morecambe's longest-running music festival as a row continues over a council's decision not to award a grant.

Morecambe Town Council has not awarded funding to the Nice n' Sleazy punk and ska festival after previously conditionally agreeing to pay organisers £11,500 towards the cost of running the event.

The town council said this was because organisers had not supplied completed or verified accounts, required because the council "has a responsibility to be fully accountable in its use of public money".

But organisers said they HAD sent accounts and reports to the council, said "the goalposts had changed all the time" and it was "heartbreaking" that the grant won't be paid.

The fundraiser has been set up by Ian Dewhirst, one of the organising team.

Mr Dewhirst said "the festival has now been put under threat as the local town council have now decided not to award the funding".

"It is only my third year doing this festival and I have absolutely loved being a part of it and helping the organisers put a great event on," he said.

"It's massively heart breaking to see the stress that this has put on the festival organisers.

"Ivan Harrison and Samantha Harrison have worked tirelessly over the last 20 years to make sure that the festival is a success year on year.

"The festival is a fully loaded mix of old established bands along with the young up and coming bands playing across three stages that makes up the Nice n Sleazy sub cultural festival with a bit of comedy thrown in for good measure.

"It is a non profit festival which is run by volunteers and the festival also supports the following organisations every year: The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, Morecambe Food Bank, The White Ribbon charity.

"We also work alongside SORM (school of rock and media) who are a music media school for children with disabilities and we offer their students opportunities for work experience.

"The funds will be used for welfare facilities, hiring of equipment, sound and light, bands and security.

"We would like YOU to be a part of US by making a small donation or to offer any kind of contribution to ensure the event is as successful as previous years.

"Let's keep Morecambe's longest running (music) festival on the map."

The fundraising page can be found HERE. 

At time of writing, £440 had been raised towards a £5,000 target. The festival costs up to £32,000 to run.

This year's Nice 'n' Sleazy is the 17th, making it the longest running music festival in Morecambe.

It is due to take place at the Trimpell Club in Morecambe from May 24-26, with an opening night at the Exchange pub on May 23.

The annual gathering of punk music fans began in 2006 after the big 'Wasted' punk festival moved from Morecambe to Blackpool.

The decision not to award the grant was made behind closed doors at a Morecambe Town Council meeting.

Read more: Morecambe's longest-running music festival under threat in row over council grant - Beyond Radio

Councillors were split over the decision not to award the grant, with some wanting to give the organisers more time so the issues could be resolved.

A Labour spokesman said: “The Sleazy team had been through two deaths and serious illness amongst the founder members of the festival, delays to the accounts in those circumstances were inevitable.

"We were appalled at the lack of empathy from the MBI members who all voted to reject the payment immediately.

"They continually show a lack of patience and a determination to throw out applications that have questions attached to them rather than giving opportunities for further conversation and resolution.

"It shows a real lack of understanding about how hard local organisations work and the importance of funding.”

Councillor Geoff Knight, leader of the Morecambe Bay Independents (MBIs) on the town council, said in response:

“The Morecambe Bay Independents take seriously how council taxpayers' money is spent.

"As part of the new administration on Morecambe Town Council, we are determined not to follow the same path made by the previous administration whose decision-making has led to so much controversy of late.

"In 2023 the MBIs supported the award of a grant to Nice & Sleazy. This grant was however subject to certain terms and conditions. The main condition being that audited accounts/receipts are submitted before the grant can be released. 

"Despite requests, the organisers have failed to comply with this condition and a decision was agreed by full council to withhold funding. In the circumstances a further time extension was not felt appropriate. 

"Although the Morecambe Bay Independents empathise with the organisers’ situation, the information provided needs to stand up to audit scrutiny.”

A Morecambe Town Council spokesperson said: "Regrettably, the organisers are yet to provide complete audited or verified accounts.

"The chartered accountant tasked with doing so was unable to access the necessary evidence of payments and receipts to verify the festival’s accounts, due to the applicant’s loss of access to data required.

"Regardless of the unfortunate circumstances surrounding this occurrence, the fact is the original funding conditions have not been met. The council has a responsibility to be fully accountable in its use of public money and issuing this grant without conditions being met would not be fulfilling that responsibility. Therefore the council is not able to release payment of this grant.

"The council remains committed to supporting local festival and event producers, as evidenced by its track record and the 100% increase in festivals and events grant funding available in its 2024-25 budget.

"The organisers of Nice 'n' Sleazy are encouraged to apply again in future funding cycles, when any new application will be judged on its own merit."

But Samantha Harrison from the Nice 'n' Sleazy festival organising team, said earlier this week:

"Everything we have done, the council has always wanted something else. The amount of times I've reached out to Morecambe Town Council and asked them to respond to emails. There has been a lack of communication and no actual guidance.

""They have received the accounts, there are no missing accounts, we simply did not need all that was awarded. We actually only needed around £8000. Everything we've done hasn't been good enough for them."

The press and public were excluded under 'Section 1 of the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960' when the decision not to award the grant was made at Morecambe Town Hall last Thursday.

This was "on the grounds that publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest by reason of the confidential nature of the business to be transacted or for other special reasons arising from the nature of that business or of the proceedings".

Since the meeting, Beyond Radio has asked Morecambe Town Council to confirm how individual councillors voted when making the decision not to award the grant.

In response, a Morecambe Town Council spokesperson said that details of how individual members vote on any one issue isn't recorded unless it is specifically requested at the time by two councillors, as per the council's Standing Orders.

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