Battle to keep Hitchin Beer Festival at venue

A BATTLE is on to keep an established beer festival at its usual venue, after a council said it could not run there because it is not fit for use.

Although Hitchin Town Hall will now shut for two years to undergo a redevelopment, it had been hoped Hitchin Beer Festival could be held there in the early spring as an exception.

But, despite support from a number of councillors, officers at North Herts District Council (NHDC) have now said it cannot be done.

It’s prompted calls for “a little flexibility”, with North Herts CAMRA, which organises the annual festival with Hitchin Round Table, hoping the decision can be reversed and the town’s councillors calling for a re-think.

Brian Mason, chairman of North Herts CAMRA, told the Comet: “Holding the festival there is a chance to make some more money for a little outlay.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do yet, but we’d love to hold the festival there.”

He added: “We’d also love some ideas for new festival venues, but it needs to be central. And we’d like to hear from potential volunteers.”

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The event is a popular one in the Hitchin calendar, with more than 2,000 people attending this year’s festival over the course of a weekend.

Cllr David Billing said: “I think there needs to be some flexibility over this. This is a long term customer of the town hall, and I think we owe it to them to be as flexible as we can.

“I think we, and Hitchin Town Hall Ltd, needs to be very careful to ensure it doesn’t lose customers which it can ill afford.”

Cllr David Leal-Bennett, who is also a director at Hitchin Town Hall Ltd, added: “I just hope it can be done. I see no big reason why it can’t work with a bit of a will from all concerned.

“If we could find a way to have just one beer festival in early March, for example, I think that would be very good.”

Officers have said it would be too expensive to open the hall, but only a working bathroom, and a little light and electricity would be required.

NHDC’s strategic director of customer services said: “The building is being decommissioned over the next few weeks and will therefore be in full ‘shutdown mode’ by March with no basic services up and running.

“Unfortunately it would be extremely expensive to go through the process of re-opening the hall for this one event. We are sorry about this, and we have suggested other possible locations both in Hitchin, and elsewhere in the district.”

Anyone who can help with an alternative venue is asked to call Brian Mason on 01462 455976.

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