Cash fears haunt Fright Night as 40,000 head for the city centre

Sheffield City Centre Fright Night.....The Studio Dance Group
Sheffield City Centre Fright Night.....The Studio Dance Group
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About 40,000 people are expected to visit Sheffield city centre on Sunday for the 13th annual Fright Night - the country’s biggest Hallowe’en celebration.

But a financial spectre in the background refuses to go away. Organiser Scott Barton said this week that shrinking council grants and the threat of having to meet policing costs were raising doubts over the long term future.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher,” he said. “The event is becoming more successful, which brings more costs for production and health and safety, such as for stewarding, fencing and insurance.

“We had to take a good hard look at it this year and made the decision to work harder at getting further support and sponsorship. But after this year, we have got to sit down and decide whether there can be a future.”

Sunday’s activities will range from a trapeze show and fire dancing in the Peace Gardens to zombies in the Winter Garden to Hallowe’en themed fairground rides in Pinstone Street and Surrey Street. There will be music and street entertainers across the city centre.

One of the key features, however, is the way the public embraces the themes by wearing fancy dress.

Scott, who runs Yellow Bus Events, said: “We have had very positive feedback from the council and police about what the event does in terms of reducing anti-social behaviour in neighbourhoods.

“But we appreciate this is a difficult time and difficult decisions have to be made.”

The total costing of staging Fright Night is about £60,000, of which £15,000 comes from the council and £9,000 from the Arts Council. The rest is made up of support from the University of Sheffield, First buses and payments by stallholders.

“There are these two shadows - the possibility of the police charges and further cuts in council funding,” said Scott.

Fright Night went ahead last year after a proposed £8,000 policing bill was dropped, and South Yorkshire Police Commissioner Sean Wright and MP Clive Betts stepped in this year to ensure it was not an added cost. But there is no certainty over future years.

Council funding has already been cut by 40% over two years.

“We have been working hard to ensure the event can continue to provide quality entertainment with some surprises.

“It’s good news that Sean Wright intervened this year. If the policing issue comes in, it will be terminal.”

Scott added: “Fright Night is the largest Hallowe’en event in the country and the largest free entertainment event in Sheffield.

“It has a massively diverse audience all coming together in the city centre, and it increasingly attracts people from further afield.

“It’s great that we are getting more national recognition - a national newspaper is running a big preview piece this Saturday.

“We want to try to ensure Fright Night has a future.”