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2024 Great Dorset Steam Fair cancelled

Posted by Chris Graham on 20th November 2023

We report on the sad news that this year’s Great Dorset Steam Fair has been cancelled and that the event remains for sale.

Great Dorset Steam Fair

Very sadly, the Grerat Dorset Steam Fair has been cancelled for the second year running, and it now looks like the end of the line for one of the preservation world’s flagship events. In order to bridge the financial gap caused by yet another vast increase in operating costs, turnover in 2024 would need to increase significantly. However, after again closely analysing all income streams, it would be necessary to raise ticket and camping prices by 70% to 75%. While this would be in line with what some other major festivals charge, the GDSF directors are very conscious that, in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis, the overwhelming likelihood is that the majority of our visitors would find this to be unacceptable or unaffordable.

Great Dorset Steam Fair

Great Dorset Steam Fair managing director, Martin Oliver, says: “The GDSF is a World-renowned event and is enormously popular but, sadly, the harsh reality is that there is little we can do financially to make running the 2024 event financially viable. Post-pandemic operating costs increased disproportionately (when compared to our income) and would increase substantially again in 2024.

Great Dorset Steam Fair

“The country is still gripped in the cost-of-living crisis and we don’t believe that we can risk imposing a significant increase in ticket and camping prices without drastically reducing attendance at the event. So, a perfect storm situation exists. As an organisation we have looked at every option possible financially to try and find a way forward; including putting the event up for sale over the past few months (through a specialist broker).

Great Dorset Steam Fair

“Following our previous press release at the end of August, and after careful consideration and a further review this autumn, the Great Dorset Steam Fair board of directors has had to make the very difficult decision to not run the 2024 event. This has been a long and detailed process and we haven’t been in a position until now to make a further public announcement.

“As one of the largest events/festivals of any type in the UK, the Great Dorset Steam Fair is no small undertaking. It’s a very complex event that requires months of careful and detailed planning with all stakeholders, including the statutory authorities, the emergency services and site contractors. As a major outdoor event held on a working farm, the GDSF has eye-watering operating costs needed to fund the provision of the necessary and statutory site infrastructure/services over the 600-acre showground.

“Consultation with key contractors in recent weeks for the 2024 event has confirmed that the underlying problem of spiralling costs very much remains. Costs following the pandemic rocketed in 2022 to £4.2 million (up by £700k from £3.5 million on the last event held in 2019). This was a sledgehammer blow to the GDSF resulting in the cancellation of the 2023 event.

“Regrettably, for 2024, the soaring costs of 2022 have been compounded by a further overall increase of around 12% and, with additional regulatory and compliance requirements, this could well increase to around 15% or more, meaning operating costs for 2024 would rise even further. While there has been interest in the sale of the event, and discussions are ongoing, we’re yet to finalise a deal that would enable the 2024 event to run. With this in mind, we’re very aware of the timing for all involved, for visitors (who wish to book tickets, camping and hotels, bed & breakfasts, etc) to section leaders, staff, contractors and exhibitors who need to reserve the dates to ensure their availability/book time off work etc, and for the management team to organise the event.

“This isn’t the news that everyone who enjoys the GDSF was hoping for, and no one is more disappointed with this outcome than us as organisers. It’s a desperately sad situation that we are unable to continue but, unfortunately (despite our best endeavours), the current position is that the 2024 show will not be running. Nevertheless, the event remains for sale and we remain hopeful that there may be a Great Dorset Steam Fair in 2025, and the present management team will do all we can to assist in making this happen.

My sincere thanks to everyone for your loyal and past support, it is very much appreciated.”

Any parties wishing to enquire in relation to the sale of the event should contact enquiries@gdsf.co.uk marked for the attention of Martin Oliver.

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