New year party faces radical revamp call
NEW Year's Eve celebrations in Bideford have been recognised nationally, but now it could be time for the event to radically change to put the town back on the map.
The event, which is partly funded by Bideford Town Council and Torridge District Council, has been running in the same format for more than ten years, with people gathering on the quay.
The ex Radio 1 Roadshow stage has been the centre of the celebrations providing music until a fireworks display later in the evening.
But now, Bideford town councillors are calling for change fearing the event's heyday has passed and the organiser, Steve Clarke, has admitted change could be on the horizon.
Mr Clarke said: "There is no doubt the funding is getting dubious and if one part of the organisation isn't put in place it will all fall apart.
"The trouble is, you can't really do anything different and the concern is if nothing was put on then people would come to the town centre anyway.
"We are having a round-up meeting on February 23 with the safety advisory group so every agency involved will be there.
"We will certainly have some discussion about the event's future."
Councillor David Brenton has suggested the town council debate the topic and is keen to see the idea of having a real ale festival in Bideford Pannier Market put forward.
Mr Brenton said: "New Year's Eve used to be spontaneous and no organisation was involved.
"A lot of people have said they would like to see that again.
"It used to be one of the Top Ten places for new year in the country and now the number of people has declined for a number of reasons.
"This year it was noticeable there were not many people out in town until later and there was a lot less fancy dress, the last three or four years it has just tailed off.
"I think a charity should take on the pannier market for the night and have a real ale festival with all the local brewers involved.
"It was suggested a few years ago but it wasn't taken up.
"It would be nice to see more of the pubs open for the night as well so they can take up the business."
Although a number of pubs do close, one which does remain open is The White Hart on Queen Street.
Leigh Loder, has worked at the pub for four years.
She said New Year's Eve was good for business.
She said: "We usually spend a couple of hours in the afternoon preparing the pub and taking out anything valuable, but it doesn't take too long and it is one of the busiest nights of the year."
Katie Spearman works at the Kings Arms on the Quay, which has been closed on New Year's Eve for the past six or seven years.
She said: "We are usually busy until we close at 6pm but we do better business by opening early on New Year's Day and giving people breakfasts.
"I know it has been discussed reopening for the night but I think the hassle of preparing for New Year's Eve doesn't outweigh the trade we do the following day."
John Emms, the president of the Bideford Chamber of Commerce and the owner of Lathwells restaurant on Cooper Street, said he thinks a real ale festival is a fantastic idea.
He said: "I think New Year's Eve does need to become spontaneous again and I know a lot of Bidefordians agree.
"Eight years ago you couldn't move on Cooper Street for people and now it is not the case at all.
"I think the current organisation is fantastic but I think the roadshow may be a bit dated and an event in the pannier market would be fantastic."