Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Golowan is saved?

Last night was the Penzance Town Council meeting that decided upon the future of Golowan. Now Golowan has a different future, to recap 7 weeks ago the festival was presumably going to be run under the auspices of the town council. 6 weeks ago the council decided to put the core functions of Golowan out to a private management company. Last night all this was rescinded and we now have a new future for Golowan.

Personally I found myself in broad agreement with the principles that were stated at friday's public meeting at the Ritz. Which were to quote from my earlier blog: "That the budget cuts were unacceptable. That the new organisation must be bound by the original aims of Golowan. That the town council and councillors continues to fully support the festival whatever happens in the future (i.e. not cut it loose). That setting up a new organisation would take too long and not be able to run the 2016 festival."

As I agreed with all of these I would've been delighted if last nights decision reflected all of those points. However it did not, but from from glass half full to glass half empty, the mayors recommendations as set out in the paperwork did not come into place. The incremental budget cuts of 5 thousand per year for Golowan were refused (plan was from the 15k this year to, 19,250 2016 and 14,250 2017 and 2018). There was no mention of the original aims of Golowan and there was no mention of Town Council support for the festival in the recommendations. It could have been much worse.

On the point of a new organisation being set up for next year this was not listened to. Apparently it was impossible in the time-frame for the Town Council to hire a director and getting everything set for next year. (Planning a large event involves a lot of paperwork and jumping through hoops, often months in advance.) It was voted that an interim organisation will be appointed to do this very task for next year and somehow be able to do what the council can not!! It was explained that public concerns about the time-frame were addressed and now the council has moved the dates for deciding and handing over to a new organisation from the 18th of November to the 25th of November. I don't think this did address the anxieties people have one bit.

The full motion passed by council is that: 

This Council acknowledges the vital role the Golowan Festival plays both in life of the community we represent and the local economy.
The Council will continue to actively support Golowan and any future organisation that manages it. 
The Council recognises the importance of Golowan's original charitable aims and will ensure any future management organisation will abide by these.
The Council believes a successful future for Golowan is most likely to be achieved through a not-for-profit community organisation.
Immediately after the conclusion of the 2016 festival, the Council will invite bids from as wide a range as possible of appropriate interested parties to take responsibility for Golowan from 2017.
For at least the first 3 years of operation, the successful bidder will receive financial support from the Council of 25,000 pounds per year.
The Council will facilitate the creation of a Golowan supporters group, on the model of the 'Friends of Penlee House' with the intention of providing a vehicle for consultation on and community engagement with the future of the Golowan Festival.
This Council acknowledges the importance of Golowan 2016 as a transitional year.
This Council recognises that an era of increased responsibilities for town councils requires a higher standard of adherence to administrative and financial regulations than has been the case and that therefore the Council cannot manage Golowan in the way it has done previously.
This Council will therefore appoint an appropriate community organisation to deliver to deliver the 2016 Golowan festival ONLY, according to the timetable laid out below.

2 November – Committee decision. 
3 November – Firm expressions of interest to run the 2016 festival will be sought from the community. Advertised on Town Council’s website. 
20 November – Submissions from Community Interest Companies (or equivalents) returned to Town Council office. 
24 November – Chairs’ Committee meet to review the submissions, decision taken. 
25 November – Successful company informed and transference to begin immediately, to enable an event notification notice to go from the successful company to Cornwall Council before Christmas. Followed by the first SAG meeting In January to present the event management plan to Cornwall Council.

So this is to be the future, quite what it all means remains to be seen....

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Golowan and it's future back before Penzance Town Council

Much has said and been written about Golowan over the last 6 weeks. For it was 6 weeks ago tomorrow that Penzance Town Council voted to put the core functions of the festival out to private management. This resulted in a flurry of press coverage, an explosion on social media, hundreds signing petitions. People were certainly not happy with the behind closed doors decision. Or to put it more simply 859 people have signed a petition that reads:

"Penzance town council have voted to hand the Golowan festival to a private company. We the undersigned believe this decision should be reversed and the public consulted about the festivals future."


On friday night (30/10/2015) there was a public meeting held in the Ritz Penzance. Pictured above is Mike Sagar Fenton chairing that meeting. The major thrust of the meeting was twofold, to hear from the Mayor (David Nebesnuick) about his latest recommendation to the full council meeting on monday and to ask him questions and show him the strength of public feeling. The second part was to resolve what the meeting wanted for the future of Golowan. Understandably there was some disagreement between what the public wanted and what the mayor had planned. (if it's of any interest I have complained that the town council papers and recommendation were published before the public meeting and are consequently contradictory and not taking public feeling into account).

Whatever I may think, or other councillors and whatever the mayor will recommend tomorrow night, has yet to be decided. Amendments may well be made, votes won and lost. To say the future of Golowan and it's management is secure and planned is not true.

The Mayor's recommendation is as a result of talking to people involved in the festival over the last few weeks. Is it a climbdown on the privatisation of Golowan? I really don't think so at all. Now it is envisaged that a CIO or CIC (which is presumably yet to exist) will take over Golowan in the coming weeks and deliver the 2016 festival. That the budget will be cut by 5 thousand in year 1 and an additional 5 thousand in year 2. That is £25,000 down to £15,000.

The full text is here

The meetings response was very clear in it's thoughts on this. There was a later show of hands that indicated; That the budget cuts were unacceptable That the new organisation must be bound by the original aims of Golowan. That the town council and councillors continues to fully support the festival whatever happens in the future (i.e. not cut it loose). That setting up a new organisation would take too long and not be able to run the 2016 festival. It was pointed out that the feasibility of putting this out to tender and making sure any organisation (let alone a bespoke organisation) won the tender would be ultra vires and even judicially re viewable, i.e. unlawful. Clearly a great amount of work is needed before any of these plans see the light of day!

I have a further fundamental problem with the plans, the Mayor justifies the decision to take Golowan out of the Town Council's hands because there were failings in the management this year. To quote:

The stimulus to take action arose from Cornwall Council’s loss of confidence in Penzance Town Council’s management of the festival in 2015 and their plans to undertake a special review of the management of Golowan under an independent chair provided by Plymouth City Council. 
Cornwall Council’s review took place in Camborne on 25 Sep 2015 and involved most of the members of the Council’s Safety Advisory Group. The Mayor, Acting Town Clerk and Festival Director were invited to attend the meeting which lasted 3 hours. Penzance Town Council was debriefed on its failures and weaknesses in preparing for the 2015 festival and the changes required for a successful festival in 2016. It was made clear that the status quo could not continue into 2016 because unless substantial improvements were made it was unlikely that the necessary road closures would be approved putting the festival in doubt.
(I've requested the minutes and notes from this meeting and not had any response whatsoever)

So there were failings apparently, the lesson for Penzance Town Council is apparently to get rid of the hassle and give it to someone else. What were the lessons from this time round and how can these obstacles be surmounted? More pressingly how can a brand new organisation or company learn these lessons. It greatly concerns me that if the challenges of delivering Golowan are seen as too much on the town council, what confidence can there be that any new provider will be ready for these challenges. I'm very much used to ways of working, whereby evaluation is done and mistakes are learnt from and things get better, I have little confidence that any of these proposed plans actually address the supposed failings of 2015 and has a vision for how 2016 can run smoother.

I'm still greatly perplexed at the seeming rush in all this. We have a festival that has survived, albeit with a revival, from antiquity, Even since the revival there has been 25 festivals. Yet we are giving ourselves such a short time-frame to reorder and reorganise this massive festival, the question is why?

As I wrote above the Town Council meeting will be held tomorrow night. Until then nothing is settled and I know there are various alternatives and amendments being proposed. Quite what the end product will be is far from certain. The meeting will be held in the Lecture Theater, Zennor building, Penwith College, 7 pm start. If you live in Penzance and wish to contact your councillors the contact details are here:

Tomorrow's agenda:

Monday, 5 October 2015

Penzance Town Council issue statement on Golowan

Coming hot on the heels of a widespread social media campaign to keep Golowan public, the front page of the Cornishman and a lot more going behind the scenes. The Chair of the Finance and Property Committe Dick Cliffe has issued a statement approved by the Mayor David Nebesnuick on behalf of the town council about the decision made 3 weeks ago today.

I've had no input into the content of this letter and I was sent it after it was finished. I do not agree with many of the points and would like to see a lot more clear facts to back up some of the sweeping statements.

Here's some brief comments.

There is a statement that: "Indeed the Council would prefer the event (Golowan) to be independent of the Council." This is not the policy of the town council, it may well be the views of some councillors but it has never been discussed let alone decided upon by the council. I certainly do not agree with it.

It continues: "Should an organization come forward at some point in the future, and expect significant Town Council grant funding to deliver Golowan, then we would want to see an established track record of delivery of large public events to a budget." Again never been discussed quite who 'we' is therefore is unclear. Again the town council has not discussed other options only to put it out to private management, let alone set parameters for another organisation to run it. It is only the town council in a meeting that can make such decisions. Again I do not agree with the statement, it's specifically and carefully written to preclude any community group or organisation within Penzance having anything to do with the running of Golowan and leaves only the private sector available.

On another tack my previous blog, I criticised the taking of this issue in private. The reasons given was because it was confidential. I've asked the question why if this statement is public and a varied argument made for the future management of Golowan, could the meeting itself not also have been public? I await an answer from the authors of this statement. I suspect the answer is because public pressure is telling and that many people feel that this is not an issue for the town council alone and there is a huge public interest, keep up the good work folks...

The open letter is here https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/6TN2L9M
The poll asking for a public meeting is here https://fans.vote/ACjkiqbudBQ/?wid=&ref=voted

Full Penzance Town Council statement is here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2m8p_rrHuXtZm50dXB5MGcyMjVhWTlZZElCUnZnc0lfVmhj