Stopover event - huge boost to local economy

I would like to say a big thank you to residents and businesses of Lewes district, the Chief Executive and her team and our many partners, following the huge success of the Gentlemen of the Road Lewes Stopover at Convent Field last weekend. This is a brilliant example of how to say ‘Yes’ when someone has a great idea – then to work hard to make it happen.

The weekend was magical thanks to the whole town doing what it does best – putting on a great party.

It was a first – and maybe now we will think about it being a first of many.

We had economic assessors in and around the town. Their initial estimate is there will be an economic benefit of between £2.5 and £4 million. And more than 24,000 people enjoyed both the festival and the fringe events, enthusiasm and hospitality of the town, that all came together to give Lewes its special feel and atmosphere.

This was achieved through a lot of hard work by many people. Council staff formed a “Mumford” team with partners including Lewes Town, East Sussex and Brighton & Hove councils and the police.

All the fringe events we co-ordinated were packed – I hear there was a wonderfully chilled atmosphere at the Stopover breakfast at Southover Grange on Saturday. Volunteers handed out more than 20,000 copies of the free Stopover Guide the council and Viva Lewes had produced to encourage visitors into the town. Businesses and organisations to thank include Harveys, Bills, Starfish Music, The Sussex Guild and Rag Roof Theatre, Lewes Football Club and the Bonfire Societies – and of course the dozens of pubs, restaurants and shops that made visitors welcome and enjoyed bumper sales.

To residents in particular a huge thank you. I know that many who live close to the festival area felt uneasy about the impact it would have on them.

I hope that the extra arrangements that were put in place for residents affected by temporary road closures and suspension of parking bays did the trick and helped to alleviate any concerns and made getting around during the weekend more convenient.

Of course, the event will be judged on what others within and outside the local community have to say. I would like to share with you a few of the comments that I have received:

Business in High Street: “We feel incredibly positive about the whole event and very very proud of Lewes”

Festival goers on Twitter:

“Thank you very much to the people of @LewesDC for being so nice and welcoming with all the festival goers this weekend. Hope to be back.”

“Amazing weekend, cannot stop smiling and making ppl look @ pictures and vids, best fest ever thanks @MumfordAndSons and @LewesDC.”

In tweets the words “proud”, “special”, “fantastic”, were repeated many times over.

I would sum up my view on the whole Gentlemen of The Road experience is they gave us some magical memories, adopted at least two of our local charities, have promised a legacy project to Priory School, held a Q & A with students from Southdown college and supported our local football team. They will be a hard act to follow but Lewes District Council is up to the challenge and open to future requests.

James Page

Leader, Lewes District Council