Local Labour party councillor for Gorrell Ward, Bernadette Fisher, is disappointed that there will be no further public consultation on the future of the Whitstable Oyster Festival following this year’s scaled down three-day event.
‘Putting future Oyster festivals out to tender before consulting with the public could be seen as putting the cart before the horse,’ says Bernadette. ‘This should have been a review-led process and I am disappointed to find that before the dust has settled on this year’s festival, there is a deadline of August 31st for a four-year contract. Last year, when we reviewed the festival, in light of the many concerns raised, we consciously decided to just award a one-year contract. I believe it is our duty as councillors to fully review the format as a first step. We must consult with the community we serve before leaping into four-year tie-ins with commercial operators.’
‘Officers will no doubt say that timescales needed to run a successful tendering process are pressing, yet last year the awarding of the event didn’t take place until October. Bernadette continues, ‘I have always supported a return to a heritage-based festival, which is considerate of both the environment and the community. We’re getting there, but as Canterbury City Councillors we mustn’t stop talking to the people that matter.’
Julia Seath, former Canterbury City Councillor for Whitstable and active campaigner said ‘It is strange officials would, so soon after the event, decide the new format of the Festival is a veritable success without first considering feedback and talking with the public. Awarding £120k of public money without properly made strategic decisions based on the current climate is questionable’.
Whitstable Labour Party campaigner Chris Cornell added, ‘If we are going to lay the groundwork for a positive future for the Oyster Festival, then people need to better listen to the voices in our community. Events need to be spread around town. Can there be serious thoughts about organising the event through some sort of co-operative, instead of using commercial events companies? There were loads of great things about the Oyster Festival this year, but often the best events are those organised by the volunteers of the fantastic Whitstable Oyster Festival Association. I would hate to think that this wasn’t going to be a competitive tender process because officials and some councillors are in a rush.