A long-standing community event that raises thousands of pounds for local good causes cannot go ahead after council charges shot up by nearly 3,000 per cent, writes Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Correspondent.
Urban Art Fair, which is held in Brixton every summer and has non-profit status, was told by Lambeth council it needed to shell out £8,000 to hold the event this year, up from £277 last year.
The council is intending to charge the event as though it were a commercial business, despite its non-profit status.
Event organiser Timothy Sutton said: “Taxing a small community event trying to raise funds for local good causes is just insipid.
“And for Lambeth to do this without any sense of shame is disgusting.”
Mr Sutton sent an email to local businesses and artists explaining the situation and has been inundated with messages of support.
“We’ve also had offers from Wandsworth, Bromley and Greenwich to hold the event. It’s very touching,” he said.
Brixton has hosted the event, which offers an affordable space for local artists to display their work, since 2002.
But the popular fair simply cannot go ahead in Lambeth if the charges remain as they are.
The council has also asked that a road closure be in place for the event.
“A road closure is totally unaffordable for a small community event.
“Most artists don’t make money – if Lambeth wants artists in the borough they need to be realistic about it and not charge £8,000. It’s a joke and totally unrealistic.
“Most people are just doing it for the love of it,” Mr Sutton said.
He added that Lambeth artists will be pushed out of the borough if they cannot afford space to show their work.
“They are already doing it with the lack of studio space in the borough, they’ve been sold off for flats.
“This is just the last straw. Why stay here? Lambeth is showing no commitment to supporting any kind of arts at all.”
The council has offered discounted fees of £2,597 – £500 of which is refundable.
A Lambeth council spokesperson said: “The Urban Art Fair is a popular and valued local event that the council has supported for a number of years – and is keen to see it return in 2020. It has been growing in popularity and last year there were road safety concerns due to the number of people attending and the scale of the event, so we have been working with the organisers to ensure it is safely run in the future.
“The costs associated with making events safe are the organisers’ responsibility and include event permit, street trading licence and application fee – as well as road closure charge. But in recognition of the Urban Art Fair’s growing popularity and the wider social benefit, the council has offered the Urban Art Fair organisers the lower, community discounted rate on these fees.
“These fees are much less than a commercial organisation would pay. Currently the Urban Art Fair is not a registered charity, so we are encouraging the organisers to register for charitable status so that discounts can easily be applied in the future.”