Dorset sailing festival shuts early

A festival planned to run parallel with the Olympic sailing has closed after attracting dramatically fewer visitors than expected.

The Bayside Festival had advertised 17 days of live entertainment, display acts and over 100 retailers and exhibitors on the Esplanade in Weymouth.

But the organisers, Mainsail Ltd, said on the festival's website: "We regret to confirm that Mainsail Ltd went into administration on Friday, August 3. Our priority now is naturally the welfare of our employees, who have worked tirelessly over many months to bring the vision for the Olympics in Weymouth alive."

The festival had attracted around 17,000 fewer visitors in the first three days than had been predicted.

Festival managing director Joe Hall told the Dorset Echo that at most they were only seeing 3,600 people on the 9,000 people capacity site during the Olympics.

In its statement, the company continued to urge people to head to the town - which is the largest Olympic venue outside of London. It said: "Please go to Weymouth and see the Olympics for yourselves. It's still the greatest show on earth, Weymouth is beautiful and there's loads of accommodation. And Weymouth is open for business."

The main arena had a capacity of 3,000 and was due to host free-to-view activities and demonstrations throughout the day, before switching to concert mode each evening. The festival had appearances from musicians including Chesney Hawkes and folk duo Show of Hands and had promised to be the "most vibrant and largest open air venue in Weymouth".

Mainsail, a specialist marine event management company, was appointed by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council to run the Weymouth Bayside Festival. The company had more than 12 years of event management experience, gleaned from involvement with Olympic sailing teams, America's Cup, Volvo Ocean Race and the World's largest regatta, Cowes Week.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council chief executive David Clarke said: "The borough council is very disappointed for the company behind the Bayside Festival. The decision to close this single part of what is on offer in Weymouth at the moment is entirely a matter for the commercial operator of that site. People still have 10 days to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience - the Olympics by the sea in Weymouth and Portland."

But employees and stallholders complained about being left out-of-pocket. Stallholder Molly Charlesworth told the BBC: "Everyone in there has paid for a pitch and lost their deposit - that's obviously our takings. It's been quiet in Weymouth since the beginning of the Olympics but now there's nothing going on at all."