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Free volunteer-led festival Turn the Tide fined for fly-posting event on Romney Marsh

By Molly Mileham-Chappell

Festival organisers have vented their frustration after being hit with a hefty fine for breaching advertising protocols.

Volunteers behind Turn The Tide Festival in Dymchurch found themselves faced with a penalty worth hundreds of pounds in the run up to the event, after hanging professionally printed signs.

In a bid to save the weekend festival, only in its second year, the team turned to crowdfunding, relying on the generosity of attendees to help raise the money to pay the charge.

Turn the Tide Festival 2018. Credit: Sara Carr/TTTF (5110850)
Turn the Tide Festival 2018. Credit: Sara Carr/TTTF (5110850)

Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) says so far this year, 80 fixed penalties of £100 have been issued for fly-posting in a zero-tolerance crackdown.

Cllr Stuart Peall, cabinet member for the environment, said: “As a rule, fly-posting on lampposts, telegraph poles and roadside railings is a no-no. We have had cases where huge banners have been tied to direction signs, obscured traffic lights and created potential hazards to drivers and pedestrians.

“Often posters and banners are put up without the land or property owner’s permission. Fly-posting also makes places look untidy and leads to others doing the same thing.”

FHDC said that in the festival’s case, staff gave organisers advice, formal written warnings and three days to remove the adverts but were left with ‘no other option’ but to issue the Fixed Penalty Notices worth £1,600, which was later reduced to £800.

Turn the Tide Festival 2018. Credit: Sara Carr/TTTF (5110854)
Turn the Tide Festival 2018. Credit: Sara Carr/TTTF (5110854)

An FHDC spokeswoman said: “Susan Priest, our corporate director for strategy, cancelled half of the penalties as a gesture of goodwill, although the organisers could have avoided these costs if they had responded to our advice. Sadly they did not and continued to fly-post.

“We recognise the enormous amount of hard work involved in staging events like this and the benefits they bring to local people and the economy - and we will always encourage this. But advertising and promotion must be done legally and safely.

“We have told the organisers of the Turn the Tide event that we would be happy to work with them and help promote any future event through our social media channels.”

But the festival's organisers say they promised to comply and asked for a couple of days leniency to organise volunteers to take down the signs.

Turn the Tide Festival 2018. Credit: Sara Carr/TTTF (5110852)
Turn the Tide Festival 2018. Credit: Sara Carr/TTTF (5110852)

A spokeswoman said: “The aim of Turn The Tide Festival is to strengthen communities by bringing residents from across the Romney Marsh together for shared positive experiences. The Romney Marsh is a rural area with isolated communities and it is incredibly hard to inform some residents of events in their locality. In the absence of enough funds to launch a huge postal campaign, volunteers decided that 100% recyclable, professionally designed and printed signage would be the most effective method of publicity.

“If we had been aware of the FHDC rules on fly-posting then we would not have spent over £500 of our hard-earned budget on these signs and erected them in broad daylight on the A259.

“The actions of FHDC in fining this event go against everything that we are trying to achieve. Small, local, well-intentioned organisations need guidance, not a heavy-handed slap-down when they ask for help.”

The festival itself went down well with visitors and residents with live pub music, tai chi sessions, mosaic workshops, and taster sessions from Tenterden Swords fencing club.

Acro-jugglers performing stunts in the village hall before wandering the village and funfair and an art competition and exhibition highlighting climate change called ‘2 degrees more’ also took place.

Turn the Tide Festival 2018. Credit: Sara Carr/TTTF (5110857)
Turn the Tide Festival 2018. Credit: Sara Carr/TTTF (5110857)

There were also indoor archery and football skills sessions with Yo Street Zone, while Team Extreme built a large skate park within the village hall to coach and show off tricks.

Organisers said: “Turn The Tide Festival is all about positivity. We spend hundreds of hours of our own time to apply for funding and then create a weekend of free and diverse activities to engage, amaze and inspire everyone and anyone.

“Attendances were phenomenal, the weather was beautiful, and the community galvanised in collecting donation money everywhere we went.

“By the end we nearly raised the £800 and the Day of Syn group, who had provided refreshments the entire weekend to raise for their cause, donated everything they had, just over £300, and we were there, with 24 hours to go.”

The group thanked their sponsors including The Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, National Lottery Big Lottery Fund, Magnox and the Kent Community Foundation.

Fundraising has been taking place to repay the Day of Syn team.

For information on organising events, visit folkestone-hythe.gov.uk/events

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