Leeds based company Future Sound Events has applied for a licence to hold up to 15 events, each with a maximum audience of 7,000, at Ludlow Castle from 2024. Shropshire Council is consulting on the licence. Comments to email@example.com by 21 December.
Should this be approved, up to 21 days in the castle will be dedicated to ticketed events between the beginning of May and the end of September. Allowing for set up and take down time, the castle and Events Square could be closed for around one in three days over the summer season.
The planned events will bring trade and entertainment to the town. They will also change the nature of our visitor economy. The castle is on the itinerary of many visitors coming to Ludlow but it will be a toss of the coin over whether they will be able to go in the castle. On the other hand, concert goers could flock to the town.
Ludlow Castle hosted four very success events earlier in the year, including Bastille, Kaiser Chiefs and Nile Rogers. These events, organised by Future Sounds, were packed out giving a major boost to the economy. I supported the events despite some local objections. The events gave the town a buzz it rarely sees. That outweighed any disturbance and inconvenience.
That was one event weekend over the summer and plans are for it to be repeated next year with Anne-Marie and Madness already lined up. The question is whether that success can be scaled up from four big events a year to 15 events. To this must be added the six days of events for the September Ludlow Food Festival and the Ludlow Spring Festival, which moves back into the castle next year. (The castle already has a licence for events up to 4,999 people 365 days a year.)
Concert stages and facilities such as toilets need to be set up in advance of an event. This is usually done the day before with structures and facilities taken down a day after. For the food festivals, there are seven days of closure for each of the three days of events.
To provide a rough estimate of how long the castle will be closed to casual visitors, I have estimated that for every day an event is held, 1.5 additional days are needed for setting up and clearing events.
This estimate suggests the castle will be closed to visitors for more than 50 days over the May to September season (which is 152 days). That’s around one day in three. That concerns me as the castle is one of the major tourist attractions in Ludlow, along with St Laurence’s Church, the Buttercross Museum, our independent shops traders and award winning market. And of course, the cafes, resturants and pubs.
It is not just the castle that will be closed. Events Square, which is immediately outside the castle, will be closed for the same period. This space, which is managed by the town council will be out of use for half the summer. During the 2023 concerts in the castle, Castle Street car park was reserved for concert managers and contractors and concert goers with VIP tickets. I objected to that but Shropshire Council wanted the extra income.
Future Sound Events may decide that Ludlow can’t attract enough concert goers to justify 15 events a year. But as the company has applied for this number, the licence application must be judged on the number of events it thinks it could host here.
The concerts will provide a boost to the hospitality economy in Ludlow. People will come for a couple of days and stop overnight. They will eat and drink in out pubs, cafes and resturants. They might shop in out independent retailers and on the market.
Local people will go to concerts but they will need to have spare cash to go to more than a couple of concerts at £60 a time (plus agency charge).
Ludlow Rugby Club has offered to host car parking at £6 a time.
Ludlow town centre is a residential area as well as being a retail hub. That’s one of its attractions. Noise at concerts is strictly controlled but an increase in the number of concerts will mean they will experience a lot of noise. What is music to the ears in the castle is often a noise nuisance outside. (Although many people sit on Whitcliffe to hear the music for free.)
Shrewsbury Quarry is probably the most comparable venue in the county to Ludlow Castle. Shrewsbury Town Council limits music events to 13 a year, 11 events are limited to 70db and two to 75db.
Future Sound Events has applied for music to continue to 11.00pm, not midnight as in the current castle licence. However, a 10:30pm curfew would create less disturbance for nearby residents. The licence plan does not propose a decibel maximum, just that the sound level should be within industry norms.
Representations in favour or against the proposed licence should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by 21 December. These should address the licencing objectives against which the application will be judged:
- General comments relating to all four of the licencing objectives below
- The prevention of crime and disorder
- Public safety
- The prevention of public nuisance
- The protection of children from harm.