Beer festival veto leaves a bitter taste

Wantage Beer Festival organiser Neil Crook

Wantage Beer Festival organiser Neil Crook

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

WANTAGE’S Beer Festival has lost its home at the former Civic Hall – despite the venue deciding to host its own event this year.

Wantage Beer Festival organisers said bosses at the Vale of White Horse District Council venue – which rebranded as The Beacon this year – ruled alcohol could not be sold by people hiring it.

The festival has been held there for the past two years but has now been axed for this year because it cannot find another location in the town.

Meanwhile, the council is planning its own free October beer festival at The Beacon.

Wantage Beer Festival organiser Neil Crook said the council told him the event did not fit with its “business plan”.

The venue was renamed in April with an £11,000 relaunch in a bid to cut taxpayer contributions to its £100,000-a-year running costs.

Mr Crook said: “They said they were no longer permitting hirers to bring in their own alcohol and food.”

The White Horse Campaign for Real Ale branch chairman said he was “gobsmacked” by the decision. The Faringdon resident, 60, added: “It was extremely disappointing for us. We worked so hard to build up the event which we feel is of benefit to the town, to guest houses and shops.”

The CAMRA event attracted 600 drinkers over three days last November with £1 entry fee for non-CAMRA members covering the £1,000 hall costs. A replacement beer festival will be held in March at Grove’s Old Mill Hall.

Peter Fowler, landlord of the Shoulder of Mutton, Wallingford Street, will also put on “Not The Wantage Beer Festival” on September 26. Ales will be at the Shoulder of Mutton, The Royal Oak in Portway and Challow Park, opposite King Alfred’s West Site.

Mr Fowler wrote on his website: “The (festival) is so-named because CAMRA have been unable to host the Wantage Beer Festival this year, thanks to The Beacon refusing to allow them to have one.”

A Vale spokesman said: “One of the main reasons that The Beacon did not take the booking from CAMRA was that is goes against The Beacon’s hiring policy, which states that those hiring the venue must not bring their own food and drink.

“The Beacon do not want to alienate any local support groups however need to balance their requirements as a business with the rules for any prospective hirers of the venue.”

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Comments (4)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:53am Wed 20 Aug 14

wantagejack says...

Well it just goes to show that the Beacon's hiring policy is moronic and the Vale should never have permitted it. Their so-called 'Oktoberfest' should be an unmitigated disaster and serves them right.
Well it just goes to show that the Beacon's hiring policy is moronic and the Vale should never have permitted it. Their so-called 'Oktoberfest' should be an unmitigated disaster and serves them right. wantagejack
  • Score: 14

1:02pm Wed 20 Aug 14

piper2011 says...

i hope everyone boycotts the council run beer festival. the council have more faces than the town clock me thinks
i hope everyone boycotts the council run beer festival. the council have more faces than the town clock me thinks piper2011
  • Score: 14

11:27am Thu 21 Aug 14

BeerAdvocate says...

Wantage is blessed with so many good pubs and so much well kept beer, the festival was always a big draw for CAMRA members near and far. People travelled from acros the country to visit the CAMRA festival and the towns pubs and amenities all benfitted. An amateur Oktoberfest, staged by people with only the profits in mind and poor to average beers on offer, just won't attract the level of support and attendance the CAMRA festival has developed over many years. It's not just the two years at the Civic Hall, this CAMRA festival has been going for years, at The Masonic Hall and laterally at the Comrades Club. Sadly I think the actions of The Beacon and the council will likely undo all the good work, and leave Wantage and its businesses bereft of what was a guaranteed good few days seeing a sizeable influx of people visiting the town. Good Work The Beacon ! Not.
Wantage is blessed with so many good pubs and so much well kept beer, the festival was always a big draw for CAMRA members near and far. People travelled from acros the country to visit the CAMRA festival and the towns pubs and amenities all benfitted. An amateur Oktoberfest, staged by people with only the profits in mind and poor to average beers on offer, just won't attract the level of support and attendance the CAMRA festival has developed over many years. It's not just the two years at the Civic Hall, this CAMRA festival has been going for years, at The Masonic Hall and laterally at the Comrades Club. Sadly I think the actions of The Beacon and the council will likely undo all the good work, and leave Wantage and its businesses bereft of what was a guaranteed good few days seeing a sizeable influx of people visiting the town. Good Work The Beacon ! Not. BeerAdvocate
  • Score: 13

10:13am Fri 22 Aug 14

wantagejack says...

I hear that the Wantage Community Church, which used to meet at the Civic Hall ('Beacon') every Sunday, have also now had to move out. For whose benefit is this place being run? It's certainly not for the Wantage community.
I hear that the Wantage Community Church, which used to meet at the Civic Hall ('Beacon') every Sunday, have also now had to move out. For whose benefit is this place being run? It's certainly not for the Wantage community. wantagejack
  • Score: 7

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