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Medway's Fuse Festival saved after last minute budget change at full council meeting

After an enormous show of support from the people of Medway, a last minute change to the council's budget last night saved the Fuse Festival.

A petition launched to save the festival gained just over 650 signatures and a Facebook page set up to support the event has nearly 1,000 likes.

During the full council meeting at St George's Centre, Chatham Maritime, Cllr Alan Jarrett announced that £85,000 will go to the Fuse Festival.The news was greeted by cheers from the public gallery.

The 2014 Fuse Festival in Gillingham
The 2014 Fuse Festival in Gillingham

Fuse is jointly funded by Medway Council and the Arts Council, and when the Arts Council announced that they would have to cut their funding of £100,000, it became evident that Medway Council could not fund the full cost of £215,000 alone.

Following negotiations with the Arts Council, they have now agreed to fund the festival with £40,000 which will be matched by Medway Council.

Cllr Alan Jarrett, council finance chief, said: "The Arts Council has opened the door to continue the Fuse festival for this year and hopefully for the future as well.

"This is most welcome and I have tasked officers and involved councillors to look into further opportunities to put more money into this much loved event."

Ahead of the meeting, members of Medway’s creative community came together to try to save the festival and held a meeting on Tuesday night to determine how best to persuade councillors not to axe funding for the free arts extravaganza.

Megan and Isabella take part in a Fuse Festival parade in 2014
Megan and Isabella take part in a Fuse Festival parade in 2014

Tony Scudder, who set up the petition said: "I am absolutely ecstatic for all the hard-working families in Medway who deserve to enjoy once more this inspiring, uplifting and educational festival set throughout our wonderful towns.

"Now the hard work begins, because the threat of Arts Council funding being pulled will surely happen again next year, so the council have a duty to build this year’s festival with infrastructure, relationships, and future planning so the Fuse Festival can stand on it’s own two feet and not be solely reliant on one source of government funding."

Labour members submitted an amendment at the full council meeting to reinstate the £115,000 that had been earmarked for the event and Labour Leader Vince Maple praised the turnout of support for the festival.

Cllr Maple said: "It is good to see the Tory council follow our lead and put in place £40,000 of funding.

"The sad reality is that if the Tory Council actually listened to and worked with the creative community rather than just announcing things are going to happen to them we could have an even stronger creative arts sector for Medway."

Every June the Fuse Festival fills the high streets of Medway with parades, street art, comedy, theatre and dance. The dates for this year’s festival have already been announced.

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