Full strength First Light Festival set for £200,000 boost

The First Light Festival in Lowestoft as captured at night. Picture: Mick Howes

The First Light Festival in Lowestoft in 2019, captured at night. - Credit: Mick Howes

A major seaside festival could be in line for a £200,000 boost ahead of its scheduled return next year.

East Suffolk Council's cabinet will meet next week to discuss the "significant positive impact" of the 24-hour First Light Festival.

After attracting more than 30,000 visitors to Lowestoft in 2019, the 24-hour multi-arts and science festival that takes place under the sun and stars boosted the town's economy that year by up to £900,000, according to organisers.

Some of the crowds at the First Light Festival in Lowestoft.

Some of the crowds at the First Light Festival in Lowestoft in 2019. - Credit: Mick Howes

However, the eagerly-awaited return of the festival to Lowestoft's South Beach was affected by the continuing coronavirus crisis, with the event having been cancelled for the past two summers.

Despite this, an online event was held in 2020 while a "smaller scale event" was held in June this year "on a reduced budget."

first light festival

Eddie Lambert, four, front, with Maya Day, five, and Elliott Barnard, four, inside the dragon on the beach at Lowestoft's First Light Festival in 2019. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

Now, as the First Light Festival CIC looks to firm up plans for its return in 2022, councillors will assess three funding options - with the recommendation to support the 2022 event "with a grant of £200,000."

A report to councillors, ahead of next Tuesday's cabinet meeting at Riverside in Lowestoft, states this would comprise "the already allocated £114,277 from the Business Rate Pilot Reserve" and a "further £85,723."

In September last year East Suffolk’s cabinet agreed to spend up to £140,000 from retained business rates into delivering the 2021 festival, but after the cancellation a smaller scale event left a reduced budget of £114,277 unspent.

first light festival

Enjoying the popular Beach Bar at Lowestoft's First Light Festival. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

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This figure, along with the earmarked £85,723, is being recommended for approval next week "to fund a full festival programme in 2022."

The report states: "In 2020, the festival became an online event including live streaming, with videos viewed 16,747 times and had a digital reach of 49,456 people.

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"A smaller scale event was held in June 2021 which was attended by about 6,000 people, with a further 3,000 people engaged."

Thousands of bird boxes were installed around Kensington Gardens in Lowestoft.

Thousands of bird boxes were installed around Kensington Gardens in Lowestoft as part of First Light Festival's Days of Summer programme in 2021. - Credit: Reece Hanson

With the festival described as "the flagship cultural event in Lowestoft since the inaugural festival in 2019," the report states: "First Light Festival 2022 will be the joyful nexus of cultural recovery for Lowestoft, which as the town recovers from COVID‐19, will develop the 24 hour festival model of world class multi‐arts, in a stimulating programme of free music, dance, theatre, art and science activities and performances, inspired by the place, people and spaces of Lowestoft."

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