Sutton Coldfield residents to fund Sutton Park CBSO Concert
There has been a couple of times over the last fortnight when I have been tempted by local stories to relaunch Sutton Coldfield Local News but instead I’ve continued to focus on a number of other projects currently in development.
However, the recent announcement from Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council that they are committing £100,000 to a weekend event in Sutton Park as convinced me to return to the SCL keyboard.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely excited by the prospect of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra performing an ‘In The Park’ type concert – it’s fantastic news and a brilliant way to promote the town. But if anyone can dampen my enthusiasm for something it’s our local council.
The event is set to take place on July 1st and 2nd. On Saturday 1st July, residents are invited to a heavily subsidised open-air concert by the city’s world-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), presenting a programme of popular classics to suit all musical tastes. Ahead of the main event local choirs and music groups will showcase their talents setting the scene for a memorable evening of food and music in the park.
Sunday 2nd July will be a day of arts entertainment and more local performances. The Sunday event will feature a 10-piece CBSO mini-orchestra in concert specially designed for young audiences.
Brilliant! No arguments there. The problem isn’t with the event and I agree with Councillor Simon Ward (Con. Sutton Four Oaks) when he says:
“We are delighted to be able to bring the CBSO to Royal Sutton Coldfield and to the heart of our community in Sutton Park. Our summer event promises to be a fantastic weekend with something for everyone and demonstrates our commitment to enabling residents to get closer to the city’s world-class arts and cultural organisations. Sutton Park is a great and historic back-drop and we are exceptionally pleased to be able to deliver such an event for all at the centre of our Royal town.”
The problem lies with the model being employed by the Council. Members agreed to commit £100,000 of Sutton residents’ precept money to an event that they will then need to pay to attend. That’s correct – those attending will be paying twice, once through the precept and once through the ticket price. But at least those not attending will only be paying once.
Now it is argued by the Town Council that the tickets are being heavily subsidised, begging the question – are they expecting the (what I understand to be) full capacity of 7,500 attending to be from Sutton Coldfield? Or will none precept paying visitors also benefit from the subsidised tickets?
Attracting visitors from outside the town can only be beneficial but does it justify the £100,000 bill?
It should be perfectly possible to run the event on a self-funding basis with concessions for low income residents rather than subsidising all tickets across the board. This would free-up the £100k for other free arts events around Sutton Coldfield and, in effect, result in a win/win situation. The fantastic Sutton Park concert and additional art events through the year.
If I understand it correctly, the total costs for the event comes in at a shade under £125,000. With 7,500 tickets available, one possibility is to sell 5,000 full price tickets at £24, raising £120,000 and leaving just £5,000 to be raised from 2,500 children/concession tickets in order to break-even .
That is just one permutation; there are many others including one put forward by Cllr Paul Long (Ind. Sutton Vesey). Commenting on the decision, Cllr Long said:
“This is an unnecessary expenditure and a waste of £100,000 of residents’ money when it could be self-funding. Further, the subsidy is going to benefit residents outside of Sutton Coldfield if not all 7,500 tickets are sold to residents in Sutton and our precept should be spent on residents within Sutton Coldfield. I very much doubt 7,500 residents solely from Sutton Coldfield will attend this event. This money could have been spent across several summer events including reviving the carnival and street parade using a professional events company, smaller events across the whole town and supporting existing events such as paying for the road closure for the Boldmere festivals. The date chosen is also at an already busy time of the year for events with the Boldmere Music festival “BoldFest” taking place the weekend before and the Sutton Games taking place the weekend after. This whole proposal has been ill-thought through and seems to be a desperate attempt to spend money rather than spending it on something that will benefit all residents.
“I’ve put together a model that would mean the event breaking even. If adults were charged £22 each and children and concessions £12 each with any Sutton residents on benefits being charged £5 each, then an income of £126,500 could be achieved. There are of course other factors to consider as any model has to make certain assumptions about how many people in each category will attend. Slightly higher charges of £25, £15 and £5 would cover contingency.
“This means that those who enjoy the concert, whether from Sutton or further afield, are the ones who pay for it, and a family ticket at £50 or £60 would be cheaper than going to the pantomime, a football match or Drayton Manor Park. This is a vanity project and no consultation with residents has taken place for such a large expenditure.”
Both the Saturday and Sunday will be ticketed events. Full details of the ticket prices for the Saturday out-door concert are to be announced, families attending on the Sunday will require a ticket but the event is free.
The full programme for the Summer in Sutton Concerts will be announced in due course along with details on how to book tickets.