Camberley ice rink – a review

The Eye attended a meeting of local residents in the theatre function room last night.  The meeting was a borough council invitation to residents to express their views about the skating rink and market held in the London Road Recreation Ground over the 2016 Christmas period.  The meeting – which was very constructive – lasted an hour and a half, so the following summary does not cover everything that was said.

At the outset of the meeting, it was said that Event by Event, who ran the 2016 market and rink, was intentionally not represented at the meeting.  No reason for this was given;.  The Eye suspects that the absence was highly significant, but you may think differently.

The basic statistics:  12,000 people visited the site, of whom 7,000 skated.  This was less than had been hoped, though the council judged the figure to be “not bad” for the first year of an event.  While the rink was running, town centre footfall was better than the national average, and car park usage increased slightly vs. last year.  Nevertheless, as expected, the event itself made a loss overall. Event by Event, who were not paid anything by the council, probably were more out-of-pocket than they had planned.

Analysis of the postcodes of people who bought tickets on line showed that quite a few lived outside the town.  The fact that the event brought people into Camberley is a measure of its success.

Much of what was said during the evening reflected what was written in the social media at the time.  Ticket pricing, the system for on-line ticket purchase, residents’ difficulty in getting the promised free tickets, the fairground rides, and the market (in particular the ‘log cabins’), the muddy route that NON-visitors had to take to cross the park, confusing no-parking signs and the final day ‘happy hour’, were commented on adversely.  Also, in spite of extensive advertising, it was said that many people still didn’t know that the event was running or where it was being held.

On the other hand, the ice rink itself, the staff manning the rink and the road diversions put in place to manage traffic were praised.  (Southern Road did suffer excessively from drivers turning in it to ‘shortcut’ the diversion.)  Restoration of the park after the event has also been commented on positively.  Apparently, Event by Event contributed financially to the remedial work.

The location was questioned;  it seems to be accepted generally that it would have been better if the rink had been in the town centre.  However, the rink – which was the minimum size for a genuine ice rink – was too large to fit in the town.  It was suggested that a smaller synthetic rink would get around this problem.

We got the impression that the council was well-aware of many of the ‘shortcomings’.  When asked about the fact that planning permission was granted for a similar event for five years, it was emphasised that the permission ‘follows the land’, and is not granted to any particular body.  We read into this that if the occasion were repeated in future, Event by Event might not be the operator.

There was strong – but not universal – support from the floor for implementing the traffic diversion on a permanent basis.  Clearly it won’t be possible to please everyone!

Something that was said several times was that the relatively recent investment by the council in the town centre was a factor that couldn’t have been considered when planning last year’s event.  But the council now had greater control and completely different options for a Christmas event might be viable.  Certainly, the idea of running a Christmas market again for six full weeks seemed to be a non-starter;  maybe a relatively brief craft market would be more successful?

Nothing is definite at this stage, but the Eye would be very surprised if an ‘Ice Rink Mk II’ was not held next Christmas.  We hope that it is!  But there might be a risk that arrangements will be made too slowly and too late.  Winchester Christmas Market – probably a much bigger affair, of course – is advertising for stall-holders NOW.  Event by Event complained that the delay in planning permission held them back.  SHBC won’t be able to use the same excuse next time!



14 thoughts on “Camberley ice rink – a review

    • Actually, Dominic, I disagree. Firstly, nominally, the meeting was to learn what residents thought. In practice, a ‘sub-plot’ was to tell residents that the council was very disappointed by some aspects of the event. Because of this, if E by E had been present, they would’ve been bound to defend themselves, and the evening could have become a slanging match. Secondly, E by E undoubtedly would’ve been there to learn, IF they were in the running to operate an event here next year. Almost certainly they’re not; I think they’re history. In fact, I suspect the council might become the operator itself next year. This explains the otherwise somewhat obscure final sentence in the article.

      • So in what way do you disagree? Perhaps the evening should have become a slanging match. If the truth of the event’s failure is in part down to mismanagement by SHBC, shouldn’t the people get to hear? I am not saying that SHBC did anything wrong. I just find it suspicious that the organisers weren’t there, especially if SHBC do indeed want to run it themselves.

      • Dominic, my own view is that the organisers weren’t up to the task in more than one respect. SHBC’s major ‘mismanagement’ was – again in my view – the appointment of an unsuitable contractor plus naivety in relying on the contractor to deliver the goods without strong oversight. Easy on-line checks should have been sufficient to warn the council against both of these. So, I really don’t think we would have learned much from the contractor. A public slanging match wouldn’t achieve anything, and would have prevented any useful discussion.

      • God forbid the Council could be the Operator next year we would certainly be on thin ice!

  1. Rather than another poor event whoever does it I cant but feel that a year off then re-launch might be the best in the long run. That should give time for the work to revitalise the mall and London road to have at least started and have created what the council said they really wanted which was a large open square in the centre that could fit the rink. Keep running a weak event and it will take longer to build confidence.

    • Well, yes, Steve. I know that the large open square was ‘promised’ last night. But unless my memory fails me, the council leader has prevaricated about the square; I’m pretty sure that she’s said something like ‘the public square might not be all in one place’!

    • Perfect answer. Camberley got a very nasty cheap event, any organiser worth their salt and prepared to put up the funds would not have considered that site. maddness. Blue sky thinking.

  2. All of this is irrelevant.A good idea poorly planned and executed with no support from local businesses as absolutley no benefit to them.Look at the bigger picture, Camberley retail is suffering,business in most shops is down versus last year (- 15% seems the norm) and at the same time Farnborugh,Bracknell and even Wokingham are being regenerated ,that is it is actually hapening NOW! Meanwhile Camberley is still consulting and dying before our very eyes.

    • As the borough council now owns most of the town centre, it’ll be obvious whom to blame if the situation doesn’t improve quickly (arguably, the council is already to blame, of course).

  3. Event by Event are perfectly happy to answer any questions you may have all you do is have to ask. Surley the truth is better than a lot of hot air and speculation.

    • Absolutely, James. In return, I’m happy to publish anything that you care to write here. At the moment the future of the ice rink in Camberley IS the subject of speculation – I don’t think the council has made any definite statement/commitment public yet.

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