First got itself all shook up
worth of funding from the Welsh Government. It grew over the next two years to be as big as it should be because every hotel room and caravan pitch was full. That probably would have been 10,000 to 12,000 beds in Porthcawl.”
Peter, who also runs an Elvis Festival in Benidorm, said the Porthcawl event is now self funding, although Bridgend County Borough Council does give £20,000 towards the huge number of safety measures to accommodate the 35,000 revellers who descend on the town.
The cash from the strategic events budget pays for traffic management, health and safety, street and beach cleaning and public safety, on which the council and organisers work closely with South Wales Police.
Research commissioned by the Welsh Government in 2013 and carried out by Kinetic Cubed Ltd estimated the Porthcawl Elvis Festival generates £6.7m for the local economy.
And, according to a Bridgend council report published in March, the 2017 Elvis Festival combined with the Urdd Eisteddfod, which took place in Pencoed in May, and the Senior Open Championship, held at the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in July, will be responsible for attracting a combined total of 175,000 visitors to the county borough and generating approximately £14.8m for the economy.
It’s a huge achievement for a small town, but the festival is not without its detractors. Peter admits there are people who hate it but appreciate its value for the town and also those who just hate it.
He also admits there is validity in complaints from residents and visitors that it has become too alcohol driven so the festival has responded by providing a family zone on the seafront and a programme of childfriendly events, including a Best-Dressed Houndog competition for dogs in Elvis costumes, which was a hit at the weekend.
Steve became disillusioned with the direction of the festival long ago and said he and Peter parted ways after a meeting in the Wimpy burger bar above Sandy Bay. Nevertheless, he still thinks the benefits it brings to certain town businesses are “brilliant”.
“I think it’s worth a lot of money to a very, very small amount of people. The rest of us, the 16,000 (residents), have to put up with an extra pound on the pint at the bar, not being able to get into pubs and a lot of drunk people and some pretty gruesome sights,” said Steve. “But anything coming into Porthcawl is good with me.”
Councillor Mike Clarke, a director of the Bridgend Tourism Association and of the Harbourside Community Interest Company, concurs its economic appeal cannot be dismissed.
“Anything that brings people to the town has to be good. I think the pubs and restaurants have done well out of it, but I know that Peter’s also been looking at reflecting on the way it’s been going and how it can be attractive to families. It’s put Porthcawl on the map but I know as a councillor you can only please some of the people some of the time. People sometimes only see what’s in the street, they don’t necessarily see the hidden benefits. But at the end of the day Porthcawl heavily depends on visitors and tourists. I was talking to an accommodation owner and he said he is booked up a year in advance for this. I welcome anything where people are getting up to do something of benefit for the town.”
Elvis fan Mark Edwards stops for a beer at Porthcawl esplanade