2024 Great Dorset Steam Fair cancelled – and event put up for sale

THE 2024 Dorset Steam Fair will not go ahead, it has been confirmed, as the event is put up for sale.

Organisers said after a review following the event’s cancellation in 2023, they had made the “very difficult decision” not to run it next year amid a “perfect storm” of rising costs.

“As one of the largest events/festivals of any type in the UK, the Great Dorset Steam Fair is no small undertaking, is very complex and requires months of careful and detailed planning with all stakeholders, including the statutory authorities, the emergency services and site contractors,” a statement said.

“As a major outdoor event held on a working farm, the GDSF has eye watering operating costs in the provision of the necessary and statutory site infrastructure/services over what is a 600-acre showground.”

The event traditionally ran across the August Bank Holiday on land near Tarrant Hinton.

They said consultation with key contractors in recent weeks revealed “spiralling costs” continued, following a rise to £4.2 million in 2022 – up by £700,000 from the pre-pandemic event in 2019.

“Regrettably, for 2024 the soaring costs of 2022 have been compounded by a further overall increase of around 12% and with additional regulatory and compliance requirements, this could well increase to around 15% or more, meaning operating costs for 2024 would rise to between £4.7m and £4.9m, another staggering increase, closely mirroring the previous huge increase from 2019 to 2022,” the spokesperson went on.

“In order to bridge the financial gap caused by yet another vast increase in operating costs, turnover in 2024 would need to increase significantly.

“However, after again closely analysing all income streams, it would be necessary to raise ticket and camping prices by 70% to 75%.

“While this would be in line with what some other major festivals charge, the GDSF directors are very conscious that, in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis, the overwhelming likelihood is that the majority of our visitors would find this to be unacceptable or unaffordable.”

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Great Dorset Steam Fair MD, Martin Oliver, said: “The GDSF is a World-renowned event and is enormously popular but, sadly, the harsh reality is that there is little we can do financially to make running the 2024 event financially viable.

“Post-pandemic, operating costs increased disproportionately (when compared to our income) and would increase substantially again in 2024.

“The country is still gripped in the cost-of-living crisis and we do not believe that we can risk imposing a significant increase in ticket and camping prices without drastically reducing attendance at the event

“So, a perfect storm situation exists. As an organisation we have looked at every option possible financially to try and find a way forward, this has also included putting the event up for sale over the past few months (through a specialist broker).

“While there has been interest in the sale of the event and discussions are ongoing, we are yet to finalise a deal that would enable the 2024 event to run.”

He went on: “This is not the news that everyone who enjoys the GDSF was hoping for and no one is more disappointed with this outcome than us as organisers.

“It is a desperately sad situation that we are unable to continue but, unfortunately (despite our best endeavours), the current position is that the 2024 show will not be running.

“Nevertheless, the event remains for sale and we remain hopeful that there may be a Great Dorset Steam Fair in 2025 and the present management team will do all we can to assist in making this happen.

“My sincere thanks to everyone for your loyal and past support, it is very much appreciated.”

Anyone wishing to enquire in relation to the sale of the event should contact marked for the attention of Martin Oliver.

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I am the editor in chief of Blackmore Vale media, which includes the New Blackmore Vale, New Stour & Avon, Salisbury & Avon Gazette and the Purbeck Gazette, having been a reporter for some 20 years. In my spare time, I am a festival lover, with a particular focus on Glastonbury. I live in Somerset with my wife and two children.