New festival on Littlehampton seafront planned - but what will the theme be?

Members of Arun District Council’s economic committee have welcomed proposals for a new Littlehampton festival with open arms.

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 1:10 pm
A new festival is being planned on green spaces on Littlehampton's seafront

The council’s officers now have the go ahead to find a partner for the ‘Sussex by the Sea’ festival which was discussed on Tuesday (October 12).

Officers said they would seek expressions of interest from ‘a suitably experienced festival operator’ for the new annual event.

An event could take place over two or three days at Littehampton’s seafront greens and could happen every year for three years.

But it is unlikely that the festival would take place next year as a report to the economic committee says such events can take up to 18 months to plan.

It is hoped that a festival would ‘maximise summer visitor numbers’ and attract new visitors.

The council would contribute towards the event for the first three years to entice operators, with the funds being taken from the 2022/23 budget.

No decision yet on theme

Officers said they ‘would not be prescriptive’ on the type of event or its theme

Emily Seex (Arun Ind, River), who has taken a lead role in making the event happen, said: “I am really pleased this is here, I’ve been banging on about it for years and the people who own the covenant on the land support it.

“May and September are both times when you have to make an effort to bring people in.”

Ms Seex suggested that the festival could be a ‘sandwich event’, much like Chichester’s Gin Festival, which has both spring and summer events. 

Operator ‘must have proven track record’

James Walsh (LDem, Beach) asked for an operator with a ‘proven track record’ to be found.

He said: “I think this is something Littlehampton is uniquely placed to provide, having that lovely, wide open space of West and East Beach Greens.

“Any operator should have a proven track record; we don’t want someone to come to Littlehampton as an experimental area, we want to see quality in it as well – the last thing Arun or Littlehampton needs is something tacky.

“Quality, track record, and empathy with local residents are watchwords to go for but I warmly welcome this.”

Dr Walsh said he was ‘open minded’ in terms of the events he would like to see but highlighted a Motocross event as ‘a noisy example’ he might rule out.

Ms Seex added that noise ‘is part and parcel’ for nearby residents living in a busy seaside town.

David Edwards (Con, Felpham East) said he would like to see a music festival ‘as someone with a busking licence’. He joked: “I’m very cheap chairman.”

Mike Northeast (Lab, Courtwick with Toddington) said that Littlehampton’s water was a huge draw and pointed to the Littlehampton Regatta as an example.

He said: “The biggest thing people want when they get to Littlehampton is to get on the water.”

He even suggested a green energy festival, explaining that the town is ‘surrounded by opportunities from wave and wind power’, highlighting the proposed Rampion 2 wind farm project as one example.

‘Great idea, let’s do it’

Shaun Gunner (Con, Rustington East), leader at Arun,said: “This is what this council is about – making a positive difference in the area.

“This was one of first things Councillor Seex phoned me about when I became leader of the council.”

Independent councillor Tony Dixon (Aldwick East) said: “Five words from me: great idea, let’s do it.”

It is thought that a festival could ‘support the economic recovery of Littlehampton’ post pandemic, attracting new visitors and ‘secondary spend’ for the local economy.

Holding the events on the beach greens could avoid disruption caused by town centre improvements, which are due to take place in 2022.

Officers will now invite expressions of interest from operators and would bring suggestions back to councillors.

This would be followed by a tendering process and approval of any council expenditure.

What theme would you like to see? Send your thoughts to our letters pages.