Lord Mayor of Sheffield barred by festival organisers

The new Lord Mayor John Campbell
The new Lord Mayor John Campbell
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THE Lord Mayor of Sheffield has been banned from attending a community festival this weekend, following a row with organisers whom he attempted to sue after falling off a chair at last year’s event.

Coun John Campbell was invited to open the free Lowedges Festival in 2011 in his capacity as the then Deputy Lord Mayor, when he suffered an accident before the start of the gala.

More than three months later he started legal action against the Greenhill and Bradway Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, who run the festival, claiming damages for personal injuries.

Organisers said the claim could have pushed the event’s insurance premiums to an ‘unsustainable’ level, potentially putting it out of business, and Coun Campbell dropped the action.

Now the councillor, who has now taken up the role of Lord Mayor, has been snubbed when he requested to return to the Lowedges Festival this year to make amends with organisers.

Stephen Rich, secretary of the Greenhill and Bradway TARA, said he had approached the Deputy Lord Mayor, Coun Sylvia Dunkley, to open the festival on Sunday.

“To get the deputy Lord Mayor to come you have to ask the Lord Mayor – you have to ask his permission,” Mr Rich said.

“He is the only person allowed to ask the deputy Lord Mayor to come, he’s the person in charge. He decided he didn’t want to do that and he wanted to come himself.

“We said no, because we didn’t think it was appropriate after last year’s farce. It was a complete and utter mess.

“We thought there might be some bad feeling so we didn’t want him. I’ve got no idea why he wanted to come, we’ve never got an apology.”

Mr Rich said he had found alternative local figures to open the festival, in the shape of Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday’s football mascots.

The event is one of the biggest of its kind in the city and attracts around 10,000 people every year.

“Naturally I am disappointed that I am not able to attend the event as it is popular and well attended and great for the local community,” Coun Campbell said.

“I had wanted to attend again in my year of office as Lord Mayor to draw a line under the unfortunate events of last year and to show my support for the festival. I wish the festival, organisers and everyone attending all the best.”

A Sheffield Council spokeswoman said Lowedges Festival organisers were not allowed to specifically ask for the Deputy Lord Mayor’s attendance.

“The protocol is that all invites are for the Lord Mayor to attend. It is their decision if they want to attend, if not then the Deputy Lord Mayor will be asked to attend if possible.” she said.

“Requestors are not able to request the specific attendance of the Deputy Lord Mayor.”

Coun Campbell represents the Richmond ward in Sheffield, and has been heavily involved in the city’s trade union movement.

He had been in Greenhill tenants’ hall, on Gervais Road, before last year’s opening ceremony, and sat down on a garden chair to enjoy a drink when it gave way.

“He seemed to be all right and proceeded to open the event,” Mr Rich said.

“No ambulance or medical help was asked for. We thought nothing of it until three months later when a letter arrived from his solicitors.”

Coun Campbell never revealed the details of his injuries or the amount he sought in damages.