A LITTLE bit of Monaco in a Lancashire market town. That was the selling point of the very first Ormskirk MotorFest, way back in 2011 – and I’m pleased to say that in most aspects the event’s managed it.
I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that Ormskirk doesn’t come with the balmy Mediterranean climate of the sun-kissed principality (although to be fair, it’s only rained on one outing so far), and there’s a branch of Morrisons in lieu of the super-rich lining the harbour with superyachts.
But the important thing is that it had a closed street circuit where you could watch old F1 cars strutting their stuff – and bubble cars, Ferrari Enzos, stock cars and historic motorcycles, for that matter.
So I was saddened to read in last week’s Champion that the MotorFest had been called off for the second year on the trot.
Entirely understandable due to the risk of spreading COVID-19 with cases currently still rising – so it’ll be back next year, right?
Well, then I got shown a copy of a letter from West Lancashire Borough Council, which has been helping to fund the event since its initial outing more than a decade ago, to Aintree Circuit Club, which organises all the displays and runs around Ormskirk’s one-way system.
In it, Heidi McDougall, the council’s corporate director of place and community, told the club: “It is also with regret that I must advise that the council, due to ongoing pressures, made worse by the impact of COVID, on its financial position is not able to continue to support Motorfest financially or with staff resource, as it has done in previous years.
“If Aintree Circuit Club wish to hold a MotorFest in future years, I would encourage you to look to make it financially self-sustaining and to draw upon your own members and volunteers to adequately staff the event and ensure it is run safely.”
Draw from that what you will, but to me that sounds as though the council is no longer prepared to back the event responsible for Ormskirk’s single busiest trading day of the year, with 42,000 people packing into the town centre for 2019’s event.
So, for my own research for a piece in Classic Car Weekly, I asked the council whether it intends for the event to continue without the council’s cash or manpower, on behalf of all the car nuts among you who’d love to see it continue.
What I got back, even though the council told me the MotorFest was ‘an outstanding event’ which it hopes will be back next year, was weirdly familiar. It didn’t take me long to find out why – it was exactly the same statement it’d given to my colleagues at The Champion last week, word for word!
Forgive me for feeling a bit fobbed off, but I reckon you, the car nuts who are the beating heart of the Ormskirk MotorFest and who bring your cars, your bikes and – most importantly, for the council’s point of view – your wallets to West Lancashire every August Bank Holiday weekend deserve to know.
While I reckon the MotorFest has a bright future, no matter how it’s funded, I think the council ought to tell us how it’s going to support the event as opposed to merely ‘enabling’ it, which is what it told us it was looking to do from next year onwards.
I know Ormskirk isn’t Monaco, but where else can you get to see a Saudia-Williams F1 car screaming around a market town’s one-way system?
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly