Hull traders hope Freedom Festival will bring a much-needed boost
TRADERS are hoping for a much-needed boost as Freedom Festival returns to Hull.
Many businesses have seen a sharp downturn of revenue over the summer and now traders are looking to make the most of an increase in visitors to the city.
Freedom will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year and, with a record number of acts and performances, organisers are hoping to see a flurry of visitors over the four days.
Pete Irvine, Freedom Festival's artistic director, said the additional performances are already attracting more business.
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He said: "Tickets for events are selling extremely well and that can only be a good thing, not just for ourselves but for local businesses too.
"The location of the festival will hopefully drive visitors to shops, restaurants and bars in the city."
St Stephen's Shopping Centre is also looking to benefit from the increased footfall in the city during the festival.
Jim Harris, centre manager, said the festival will provide a much- needed shot in the arm for businesses in the city.
He said: "Freedom is a fantastic event for the city.
"We are hoping for about a 10 per cent lift in revenue over the four days, which I think a lot of businesses are in need of.
"Events like this always bring much-needed income to the area and this week is no different, especially on the back of a relatively quiet summer.
"The festival also offers people who may not think of visiting Hull the chance to see what is on offer in the city.
"It's a brilliant opportunity to showcase our city and attract more visitors."
Poor weather conditions and events such as the Olympic Games have been blamed for a slow summer.
Mr Harris believes Freedom has come at precisely the right time for the local economy.
He said: "There's no doubting the summer has been a difficult time for businesses but it has not been abysmal.
"I think a lot of people watched the Games from the comfort of their own home instead of visiting the city centre.
"The wet weather has also not helped, as well as people cutting back on spending money on summer holidays.
"With all these factors affecting business over the summer, Freedom will hopefully offer a reprieve for many."
Many shops and food outlets at the centre will be extending their opening hours to attract festival- goers.
It is hoped they will call in after they have visited the attractions of Freedom during the day.
St Stephen's management is also hoping there will be an increase in revenue from people using its car park.
Kathryn Shillito, Hull city centre business improvement district (Bid) manager, said Freedom offers a great opportunity for families who have been cutting expenditure during the summer to enjoy a day or evening at a relatively low cost.
She said: "Freedom offers something for everyone.
"Many families have been saving money over the summer as the cost of living rises. But this year's festival offers a very diverse programme of events.
"We want people to come into the city centre and enjoy the atmosphere the festival will provide.
"From a business perspective, it is important we continue to raise the profile of Hull and continue to attract not only visitors but residents to the city centre.
"The added revenue is vitally important to local businesses and I'm sure, like every year, Freedom will be a huge success."
Events throughout the summer, including the Olympic torch relay, have helped offset the reduction in trade.
Terry Geraghty, Hull City Council's portfolio holder for leisure and culture, said Freedom will add to the financial benefits other summer events have made and could boost the economy by up to £4 million.
Mr Geraghty said: "We are predicting Hull will be given a boost of between £3 million and £4 million if each person spends between £15 and £20."