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."

https://www.change.org/p/penzance-town-council-save-the-golowan-festival?recruiter=20902901&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink



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
http://www.penzancetowncouncil.co.uk/assets/file/Golowan%202016%20Report.pdf

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:
http://www.penzancetowncouncil.co.uk/councillors

Tomorrow's agenda:
http://www.penzancetowncouncil.co.uk/assets/file/Town%20Council%202.11.15.pdf