IAN HART: Birdman cancellation a blow to town’s economy

Ian Hart
Ian Hart

There’s no way of dressing it up but I am extremely disappointed at the news of the cancellation of the Worthing International Birdman – and I’m sure many other people are too.

When Worthing inherited the event from Bognor Regis almost a decade ago, I was buoyed at the prospect of our town getting a unique international event and stamping our mark on it.

The first sentence of Worthing Town Centre Initiative (TCI) chairman Chris Spratt’s statement reiterates this: “The Worthing International Birdman has been a wonderful success for Worthing; it has raised the profile of the town and been a key event in the Worthing’s calendar.” So why axe it?

To a degree, I can sympathise with the TCI’s stance, in the fact that the majority of attendees don’t actually venture into the town centre. But overall, it clearly was good for the whole local economy.

I think back to the Sunday of last year’s competition. Myself, the commander-in-chief and Ms Hart ventured down to the pier to watch two of our friends take part in the event.

We got a taxi down from Chez Hart, had a couple of drinks in the Southern Pavilion, watched the rally and went to the Tangerine bar for a few more drinks before visiting an Italian restaurant on the seafront. We ended up doing what was at the time the weekly music quiz in the Egremont, with another cab home at closing time.

My outlay for cabs, drink and food was probably similar to what many other people paid out that day, but would we have spent that money, or even come into town on the day without Birdman? The answer is almost certainly a big fat no.

If it’s not within the boundaries and finances of the TCI, surely someone at Worthing Borough Council can see what it’s worth to the local economy.

Is it too late for the council to save this year’s competition? I don’t think so, but I will stand corrected if someone in authority wishes to point out why Worthing shouldn’t keep something that clearly brought visitors to the town.

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