A report by Bristol City Council has found that Bristol Harbour Festival is suffering from an "identity crisis", with many people unclear as to the nature of the annual event.
“Some think it predominantly a music or food festival due to the programming… Generally there is a feeling it is commercialised, with big brands monopolising the food offer and few people see it as a community festival,” the report noted.
It added that many people were put off by the festival’s “drinking culture”, calling for major changes to the event.
“The drinking culture has a detrimental affect on attracting participants from different cultures and the older community,” the report found, with many visitors to the festival choosing to leave the area before evening. The report also raised concerns that the event is “too middle class and white”.
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests and the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol in 2020, it said that the festival needed to make changes to “better reflect Bristol’s communicates in the context of these global events”. Recommendations include installing a creative director to help attract a more diverse audience.
“The festival needs to reflect recent events in its addressing of the issues around the harbour as well as celebrating the diversity that Bristol represents,” the report said.
Despite this, members of the council's are expected to approve an extension to 2023 for the current festival organisers, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
They are expected to use next year’s event as a transition to a new contract, which will be retendered in 2024.