Seeing red

PUBLISHED: 12:54 20 April 2006 | UPDATED: 10:01 06 May 2010

Bob Mardon

Bob Mardon

ESCALATING red tape and bureaucracy will block community projects in North Herts from getting off the ground. This stark warning has come from the chief of the country s largest free music event. Bob Mardon has been battling to organise this year s Rhythm

ESCALATING red tape and bureaucracy will block community projects in North Herts from getting off the ground.

This stark warning has come from the chief of the country's largest free music event.

Bob Mardon has been battling to organise this year's Rhythms of The World against mounting pressures.

He says stringent new licensing legislation has created mountains of work for organisers, posing a serious threat to future projects.

Mr Mardon, RoTW performance director, works all year round alongside numerous volunteers to prepare for the multi-cultural musical extravaganza that is Rhythms of The World.

Last year, over 30,000 people descended on Hitchin for the weekend festival and such popularity and success is likely to be repeated this summer, on July 15 and 16.

Organisers boast that the event has gone from strength to strength over the past few years but so too, Mr Mardon complains, has the amount of paperwork.

"The new licensing legislation is in danger of stifling any community activity," he told the Hitchin committee on Tuesday.

"From our point of view, putting together the licence application is now the biggest part of putting on the event.

"Building the stages, preparing the site and even clearing up the mess afterwards, are minor in comparison."

While he praised the support and effort given by the district council and its members to RoTW, Mr Mardon was exasperated by the demands made by new legislation.

He said: "The massive number of man hours spent preparing the application, the acreage of maps, the plans of every stage, the siting of every stall, the position of every toilet, the risk assessments, method statements, evacuation plans, emergency plans... the entire event and every possible eventuality put down on paper.

"Add to this the financial cost and it becomes a very costly exercise for a free community event."

Mr Mardon added that it was not only the RoTW organisers that were burdened with so much extra work but council officers too who have "a real sense of being embattled and beleaguered."

Mr Mardon concluded: "Of course we want a good, safe and happy festival but tying up the event in masses of red tape and bureaucracy doesn't work.

"To be faced with so much bureaucracy to put on RoTW 2006 is truly testing the conviction of our whole team at the moment."

Having struggled to overcome these challenges, RoTW is on the horizon and the emphasis is on the family, folk music and the local community.

Mr Mardon said: "We felt the event was moving too far in the direction of a party rather than a cultural exchange.

"The volume of litter and mess left behind took everyone by surprise."

Organisers have created a Rhythms Code that they hope will address these issues.

The code states:

* Enjoy the unusual each day of the festival

* Respect the town of Hitchin for hosting the festival

* Take personal responsibility for your rubbish

* Do not bring glass with you into the town

* Show your appreciation

For 2006, RoTW has also organised teams of litter-pickers, shifted headline acts earlier in the line-up and set up music workshops with local schools leading up to the festival.


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