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Rochester Castle Concerts set for new management

The future of Rochester's Castle Concerts is set to be discussed with possible plans for a private promoter to run it instead of Medway Council.

Documents released today reveal the local authority will consider three options regarding the future of the annual event, which has been criticised in recent years.

Numbers of people attending Rochester Castle Concerts has dropped since Medway Council told people they couldn't bring their own alcohol in 2018
Numbers of people attending Rochester Castle Concerts has dropped since Medway Council told people they couldn't bring their own alcohol in 2018

In the summer, council chiefs said losses of more than £300,000 were "unsustainable".

As a result an urgent review into the future of the event was held.

The regeneration, culture and environment overview and scrutiny committee will meet next Thursday to discuss whether the council will play a role in delivering the concerts in future.

The three options for councillors to contemplate are either to continue with the event but seek additional resources, cancel it completely, or withdraw the council's role in organising the event and allow a third party to promote and run it.

In the case of the third option, which the Messenger understands to be the favoured one, Medway Council would not receive any income from the concert or pay anything towards it. It would rent the venue out to the chosen firm.

Craig David sold out Rochester Castle Concerts in 2017, but only managed to sell 2,606 tickets this year
Craig David sold out Rochester Castle Concerts in 2017, but only managed to sell 2,606 tickets this year

Council chiefs believe parting ways with the annual event could have a negative affect on Medway's bid for UK City of Culture 2025.

The event has been under intense scrutiny after heavy losses, with the authority noting the past two years had "significantly underachieved".

However, documents reveal expenditure for the four-night festival has "consistently outweighed income", with the council losing money on 10 of the last 11 years.

KMTV report as Castle Concerts suffers losses of more than £300,000

The only exception was the 2017 event when Craig David played two sold-out nights, but it only managed to sell 2,606 tickets last year as pop star Jess Glynne dropped out "due to doctors orders".

In the last two years, the authority spent more than £65,000 on marketing the event - its highest total since it began - but only managed to sell just over half of their available tickets.

UB40 performing at the concerts in 2018
UB40 performing at the concerts in 2018

A decision to stop people bringing their own alcohol in 2018 - following issues of anti-social behaviour - is acknowledged as being "unpopular" with many people.

A subsequent KentOnline poll of more than 2,000 readers saw 61% cite the booze ban as their reason for not attending.

In the last 11 years, more than £3 million has been spent with 148,797 tickets sold of a possible 191,700.

However, the council explains many concerts across Kent, such as Southbeats Festival in Sevenoaks and Wheel and Fins Festival in Broadstairs, have been cancelled this year after due to poor ticket sales.

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