Brighton council is due to discuss banning all outdoor events from Old Steine gardens. The garden has in recent years been Brighton Fringe Festival’s most prominent site, being only a stone’s throw from the tourist magnet that is the Palace Pier and flanked by the A23. For the last two summers the fantastic image of a giant purple upside down cow, the Fringe’s famous Udderbelly venue, has greeted the city’s visitors with fitting flamboyance. However the Argus suggested the outcome of Tuesday’s culture, recreation and tourism cabinet meeting could make such festivities a thing of the past.
Concerns have been voiced about the damage incurred by such events, not only to the Old Steine but to Victoria Gardens too – the site of the famous Bangkok Ladyboys act and the Loop Digital Culture festival, among others.
The papers due for consideration in the council meeting state, “There was some disquiet last year in terms of the physical state of the Old Steine and Victoria Gardens after the Udderbelly and Ladyboys structures were taken down last May.”
Responses from local residents confirm this is a concern for many. However, those who commented were eager to stress the importance of upholding the cultural vibrancy to which these festivals contribute and for which Brighton is renowned and unique. Suggestions were put forward to alternative outdoor sites around the city each year, giving the Old Steine and Victoria Gardens some time off to recuperate.
Debate was stifled, however, when on Friday it was announced that the Brighton Fringe will return to the Old Steine in 2009 with the Spiegeltent venue replacing the much loved Udderbelly.
A spokesperson for the council was reluctant to confirm or deny any rumours before Tuesday’s official meeting, but did confirm that both the Old Steine and Victoria Gardens will be hosting events in 2009. Asked for their response to the environmental concerns of local residents, the spokesperson revealed it was likely to be only those events that would bring in enough money to fund the subsequent regeneration of the garden that would be considered for these sites.
Udderbelly, whose absence from the Brighton Fringe 2009 programme seemed to indicate a confirmation of an events ban at the Old Steine, will in fact also return in the future. A spokesperson cited financial reasons for their departure.
“Not enough money was being made during the weekdays to make it financially viable to stay this year. We will be making appearances at other venues around the country but intend to return to Brighton in the next few years as it was one of our most enjoyable locations.”
Tuesday’s meeting is highly unlikely to result in a ban on outdoor events at the Old Steine and Victoria Gardens; however, it will hopefully prompt the council to invest further into the upkeep of the parks when the festival goers have gone home.