Marlborough High Street Retailers Association’s (MHSRA) formal objection to an application to close roads in the own on the Saturday of July’s Jazz Festival has brought a lengthy and stinging response from Nick Fogg – the Festival’s founder and organiser.
Writing to all those who received the MHSRA document, Mr Fogg signs his 1,400 word statement as “Convenor, on behalf of the Marlborough Arts Association” (MAA.) He writes that since the MHSRA letter of objection “…represents a continuing process of misinformation, the [MAA] feels it necessary to correct such distortions.”
He berates the MHSRA for not having an individual’s signature or individuals’ signatures at the foot of their letter of formal objection – but he has disregarded the 83 signatures attached to it. He even goes so far to suggest that lack of such signatures leads the MAA to “…doubt its validity as an objection.”
Mr Fogg’s response brings in many points – some of which have been repeated over the years and some of which are new. His main argument is that the road closures are “…applied for on the advice of the Wiltshire Constabulary on the grounds of public safety at an event which involves thousands of people.” He says their advice has been consistent for 20 years and at a recent meeting police representatives were concerned the closures were not more extensive.
He goes on to accuse the MHSRA of demonstrating “…a disregard for public safety. In one sense this could be described as irresponsible, but not in another. Responsibility for public safety is firmly in the hands of the event organisers…”
Without road closures, the Jazz Festival organisers could, Mr Fogg says, be open “…to possible criminal charges if things go wrong.” And insurance cover might be withdrawn.
Mr Fogg states that the MHSRA’s suggestion that the road closures should start later conflicts with the event’s peak activity time when safety is most important: “It would be irresponsibility of the highest order to allow such a situation to occur and we are shocked that anyone could suggest it.”
He goes on to suggest that several of the people who signed the MHSRA’s petition say they were not told that the road closures were on safety grounds – and that they would not have signed it if they had been told.
He then writes: “If MAA is given access to a copy of the petition we would be very happy to communicate the facts to the signatories, but as has been pointed out, we cannot do so at present because the signatories that are supposedly on the document are lacking.” This is all a bit strange as the lists of signatories were clearly attached to an email sent to him at both his personal and his Wiltshire Council addresses.
This MAA response makes it clear that the New Road Bandstand is there because of the road closures rather than the road closure is enforced so that bandstand can be erected there.
Mr Fogg then takes to task ‘the small body of people who oppose the street closures’ for their ‘rather bizarre’ assumption that visitors spend no money in the town while attending the Festival. He makes a comparison of the type of value to the community that the Jazz Festival brings to that brought by the Notting Hill Carnival to London.
In his final main paragraph, Mr Fogg cites the completed arrangements for this year’s Festival, tickets sales to date (£40,000), band bookings (over 1,000 performers) hotel bookings (virtually full) and several attendees from abroad, and implies that it is now too late to refuse the road closure application.
His letter ends: ” I am happy to append my name to this document. Those that read it will be aware that it could have been co-signed by many thousands of people, whose safety we are not prepared to place in hazard.”