Extravaganza’s future in doubt

A QUESTION mark is hanging over this year’s Christmas Extravaganza after the group which organises the event decided to disband.

The members of the Montrose Events committee took the decision at their recent meeting and, according to secretary Tommy Stewart, resigned for “personal reasons”. Mr Stewart added that he personally could no longer devote time to its organisation.

He said: “Members have taken the decision to disband for personal reasons. I have enjoyed being involved in the organisation of the Extravaganza for the last two years, but feel I can no longer devote the time required to organise this event.”

The only event of its kind in Angus, the extravaganza was started around 15 years ago and, with its successful combination of stalls, entertainment, fairground rides and local shopping opportunities on a closed High Street, has routinely attracted crowds of up to 5,000 people from across the county every year.

Montrose Events took over its organisation from Montrose Business and Retailers’ Association in 2008. After 2009’s event, however, the extravaganza was facing an uncertain future due to a shortage of volunteers to help organise and run it.

By the following year, enough new blood had been brought in to bolster the committee enough to put the event on a surer footing.

The committee has latterly consisted of Mr Stewart, chairman Councillor Mark Salmond, Montrose YM manager Val Cooper and Montrose Together chairman Peter Davies. With a small group, Mr Stewart said the committee did not find it easy to continue with organising the event, although it had arranged a series of successful fund-raisers to help meet related costs.

It also became embroiled in a row with Angus Council in June this year over an unpaid bill for £400 relating to a road closure order for the 2011 extravaganza.

Mr Stewart refused to settle the invoice, saying he knew nothing about an increase in the charge for the order’s publication in the local press. The bill was higher than in previous years as the administration fee was raised to £300 plus VAT at last year’s council budget.

He felt the cost did not represent good value for money, especially as Montrose Events raised money over the course of the previous year to pay for staging the extravaganza.

Mr Salmond, however, who was the council’s finance convener when the measure was approved by all Angus councillors, was clear that the bill should be paid. He also told the Review at the time that the situation raised questions about his role in Montrose Events, the chairmanship of which could be “inappropriate” if it put him in conflict with the local authority.

Mr Stewart said that despite the committee being dissolved, he hoped the extravaganza would continue.

He said: “I resigned from the committee and the rest said at the time they would be resigning as well. That’s not to say no-one else will come forward. There should always be an extravaganza but personally I just don’t have the time.

“People have been asking us about it and there will be disappointment, so hopefully someone else will come forward and take it over.”

He added that, although the extravaganza is usually held in mid-December, there is still time for another group or committee to organise it in time.

He said: “My understanding from Mark Salmond was that it was organised in November one year so there’s plenty of time to organise it and it’s certainly something that could be done.”

At the time of going to press, Mr Salmond was unavailable for comment.