Following our previous post at the end of August, after careful consideration and review this Autumn, the Great Dorset Steam Fair Board of Directors has had to make the very difficult decision to not run the 2024 event. This has been a long and detailed process and we have not been in a position until now to make a further public announcement.

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. 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 acres showground.

Consultation with key contractors in recent weeks for the 2024 event has confirmed that the underlying problem of spiralling costs very much remains. Costs following the Covid Pandemic rocketed in 2022 to £4.2 million (up by £700k from £3.5 million on the last event held pre the Pandemic in 2019). This was a sledgehammer blow to the GDSF resulting in the cancellation of the 2023 event. 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 £4.7million and £4.9million, another staggering increase, closely mirroring the previous huge increase from 2019 to 2022.

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%.  Whilst 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.

Great Dorset Steam Fair Managing Director, Martin Oliver, says:

“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).

Whilst 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. With this in mind, we are very aware of the timing for all involved, for visitors (who wish to book tickets, camping and hotels, bed and breakfasts, etc) to staff, contractors and exhibitors who need to reserve the dates to ensure their availability/book time off work etc and for the management team to organise the event.

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.”

Any parties wishing to enquire in relation to the sale of the Event should contact enquiries@gdsf.co.uk marked for the attention of Martin Oliver.