THE Mathew Street Festival is to be axed and replaced with an international music event in Liverpool.
The popular city centre event attracts more than 300,000 people each year over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
But Liverpool’s Mayor Joe Anderson said that a combination of high costs and a wish to “freshen up” the city’s music calendar meant that the festival could not continue as it had for the last 20 years.
The new festival – to be called The Liverpool International Music Festival – will see four days of events including a concert from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in Sefton Park and Beatles influenced outdoor stages on the Pier Head.
Running costs will be around 40% lower than the old festival.
Mayor Anderson said: “The events that we put on will be free and they will be suited to a more family-friendly audience. For us it’s about taking the best of what we had at Mathew Street and building on that.
“It will still be Europe’s biggest annual free city centre music festival, it will still attract audiences to the city, but we hope that it will also look at more different types of music."
Pubs and bars in and around Mathew Street are now preparing for their first year without the festival.
Liberal Democrat Leader for Liverpool Council Cllr Tom Morrison warned that jobs could be lost as a result of the decision.
He said: “The businesses I’ve spoken say that this could be the difference between sinking and swimming for them this year.
“The Mathew Street Festival provided a much welcome boost for small businesses in the city at an often quiet time of year. Bars, restaurants, shops and hotels will all take a hit.”
But bar bosses remained upbeat.
Ethan Allen, music director of Eric's, said: “It's a real shame that the festival won't continue in the same form as it has for so many years but we will continue to put on a terrific live music festival across our indoor stages on Mathew Street.”
John Lynch, owner of Mathew Street Live and Rubber Soul, said: “We will offer the same great atmosphere as always with some of the best bands from the around the world.
"With free admission its an indoor music festival not to be missed in the very heart of Mathew Street.”
Ray Smith, landlord at the Saddle, added: “Presumably the festival will go back to how it used to be – with pubs putting on acts rather than the big outdoor stages.
It might actually be a better thing for us – in recent years we’ve been competing for business with the on-street beer sellers – people have just been drinking cans rather than buying from us. Hopefully this will help rather than hinder local pubs and bars.”
And Liverpool council Liberal Group leader Cllr Steve Radford welcomed the move adding: “It should have happened sooner.
“I think the challenge now is for the organisers to go back to the drawing board and create an event which does the city's credibility good. The costs have for some time outweighed the benefits. I've always questioned why, when we deliver things like the gay quarter pride event for up to 10 times less, we spent so much on this event.”