In the centre of Newquay, Whiskers, a live music bar, is busier than normal for this time of year. Since Cornwall’s biggest festival, Boardmasters, was called off last-minute due to a severe weather forecast, it’s been flooded with tourists at a loss for what to do.
Among them is Jay Holmes, 22, who arrived in Newquay a week before the festival was due to start with a group of friends. “We have been watching the surf all day,” he said. “We were out last night and it was crazy busy around town. The week before most of the bars were dead but we have really seen a difference. There are lots of young people in town and the clubs are packed.”
When the festival was called off, 50,000 people, most of whom were due to watch performances by Florence and the Machine, Foals and Wu-Tang Clan were either stranded in Newquay, left trying to sort last-minute accommodation, or at home. Some decided to come anyway.
Local organisers have been throwing alternative parties to accommodate tourists. The annual event makes the second week of August the busiest of the year for the town’s traders, bringing in tens of thousands of visitors and an estimated £45m.
But Jon Grant, the owner of Whiskers, said that while some businesses may lose out due to cancellation, others like his could benefit. “As an independent live music venue it is beneficial to us.
“After being around today the town looks quieter than it should be if a festival is going on. But local businesses stand to do considerably better … Usually festival-goers are bussed from one part of the event to another without setting foot in town.”
Whiskers is trying to get some local bands who were due to play at Boardmasters to perform. “I am in talks with a few bands who were meant to play the festival, mostly local ones,” he said.
Other venues have also been putting on events. Dead Famous Liquor Lounge on Beach Road is setting up a mini festival called “Dead Fest” and Treehouse Newquay is holding festival workshops where people can make fabric flower crowns. Wax Newquay is putting on a major party called Drink the Bar Dry-Cancel Party to help them reduce their extra Boardmasters stock.
On Thursday, at Fistral beach, surf competitions have drawn crowds, and many would-be festivalgoers are at the Beach Bar. Nicole Sharp, 19, is with her friends Izzy Townsend and Caitlin Weaver. “We came from Surrey but found out five minutes before we were going to go to sleep that it was cancelled. We decided to come anyway as relatives have a house in Devon so we’ve been staying here and came into Newquay for the day to watch the surfing,” she said.
Another large group has come down for similar reasons and are staying in a friend’s house. “My boyfriend Charlie lives 10 minutes from here, so we have just been drinking and staying at his house. We have a Playstation 4 and will play games. We’ve tried to make the most of it today as the surfing event has been on – other than that we are trying to find things around Newquay to do,” said Sarah Willington, 20.
However, others on Fistral beach admit they are less likely to stay, mainly due to a lack of accommodation and money. Ben Sweeney, 22, came from Cheltenham and arrived on Sunday for a holiday. “We were looking for places to camp last night, but everywhere was booked. We were homeless for a day basically and ended up in a hostel, which was lucky, but it was expensive – £150.”
He said he wouldn’t be going to the after-parties planned for the weekend as you had to pay for them and he had already spent a lot on the festival, with refunds likely to take a while.
One local jewellery vendor, Sami Mauger, said it hasn’t been as busy near Fistral beach as it normally would. “Yesterday was more like a normal Boardmasters day, but the rain is coming now. People will lose out big time. This is the last festival of the year and it sets us up for winter but it will look very different this year. I am just grateful that I do not have perishable products, those who brought tonnes of product, I am not sure what they will do with it,” she said.
Mauger commended efforts of local businesses to put on extra events. “Everyone had a fun weekend planned. There is one party this Saturday set in a secret location. It is my friend’s 30th on Saturday and we were going to see Florence but will do that instead.”
For those who are selling perishable produce, the outlook is more complicated. One company ordered 7,000 pasties anticipating people coming into town. Wax, a cocktail bar, also ordered a lot of alcohol that it is now trying to sell at cheap prices.
FreshPoint who trade fresh produce is opening its doors for members of the public and visitors to go and buy locally-sourced fruit, vegetables and dairy at extremely reduced prices.
Rachel Craze, financial director at FreshPoint, said orders had been sent up to Boardmasters on Tuesday, with the assumption the event was going ahead. “One order we took up there was short of £2,500 worth of fresh produce, which as you can appreciate, has a short shelf life,” she said.
“We have lost the revenue – even though the town has been working hard to encourage people to come down it is not going to reflect the volume of business that we have lost.
“But we fully understand the reasons Boardmasters cancelled the event. There would have been nothing worse for the town than if something had happened. That would have been a disaster.”