Hope for Hitchin's Rhythms of the World festival as Butts Close talks confirmed

PUBLISHED: 13:04 30 January 2019

Talks for a 2019 Rhythms of the World festival have been held. Picture: ROTW

Talks for a 2019 Rhythms of the World festival have been held. Picture: ROTW

Archant

A North Herts inspector has revealed the police have been talking to Rhythms of the World organisers about hosting a two-day festival - potentially in Hitchin's Butts Close - in June.

How Rhythms of the World 2015 looked from the air. Picture: Daniel ScotcherHow Rhythms of the World 2015 looked from the air. Picture: Daniel Scotcher

Speaking at a meeting of the North Herts District Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee last Tuesday, Inspector Richard Lilley from the North Herts Safer Neighbourhood Team confirmed that organisers of ROTW were looking at a June date.

Last year’s planned festival was cancelled after the police and a district council environmental health officer objected to festivities in Market Place and High Street.

Hitchin Bearton ward councillor Ian Albert, who is the chairman of the NHDC Hitchin Committee, raised this issue at last week’s meeting.

“It just seems to me that other towns and places do have town festivals, like Baldock and other places,” he said.

The Shires perform at Rhythms of the World 2015. Picture: Harry HubbardThe Shires perform at Rhythms of the World 2015. Picture: Harry Hubbard

“It just felt that this should be manageable.

“I think there is also a responsibility in a way that the organisers come to you early enough so you can have those discussions.”

The full-scale festival – which was a regular fixture in the Hitchin calendar since 1992 – has been on a three-year hiatus, with only smaller, spin-off events taking place.

Last year, a police statement said that the number of people likely to attend the festival, and the lack of what officers considered a suitable traffic management plan for a town centre event, gave the Herts force no option but to object to the 2018 festival.

Rhythms of the World. Picture: Bellanova PhotographyRhythms of the World. Picture: Bellanova Photography

Insp Lilley confirmed that he had spoken with organisers about holding ROTW, and that Butts Close would be its likely home.

“I met with the Rhythms organisers in September,” he told the meeting.

“We had a very, very productive meeting and they are looking at putting a two-day event together for this coming June.

“It’s likely to occur in Butts Close rather than the town centre for the reasons that were put up as concerns last year.

Crowds at Rhythms of the World. Picture: Bellanova PhotographyCrowds at Rhythms of the World. Picture: Bellanova Photography

“I am working very closely and we have another meeting coming up in the spring.”

Last year, North Herts District Council’s licensing and appeals sub-committee green-lit events at St Mary’s Church, but ruled against the use of Market Place and High Street.

Insp Lilley made it clear that there is still work to be done to convince the licence committee to approve a festival this year, but that organisers have his full backing.

“They’ve got an awful lot of work to do to satisfy the committee that they can put on an event which is safe for the community to attend, but I am right behind them, right with them,” he said.

Rhythms of the World festival in 2016. Picture: John FrancisRhythms of the World festival in 2016. Picture: John Francis

New North Herts Chf Insp Sally Phillips added: “There is a due processes that we have to go through around making sure that there is operational safety and security at events where there is going to be an influx of people. It’s got to be paramount.”

The Comet attempted to contact Rhythms of the World organisers, but has yet to receive a response.

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