AFTER 56 years, the Ayr Flower Show has officially been cancelled.

It was confirmed today by Chairman John Walker that the historic summer flower extravaganza would be no more due to South Ayrshire Council not funding the event.

He said in a statement: "Ayr Flower Show has a great success for the last 56 years with only one hiatus in 2000 when the then administration of South Ayrshire Council decided they could no longer afford to stage it. 

"It was rescued by a dedicated group of enthusiasts under the leadership and direction of the late David T Roy assisted by a hundred volunteers and over a thousand patrons alongside many local and national sponsors.  

"Over the years the volunteer group has grown to over three hundred and the Flower Show has contributed in the region of £1.5 million annually to the economy.    

"We have survived the highs and lows of recessions and for the three years (2013, 2014 and 2105)out of the sixteen been supported financially by South Ayrshire Council.

"The Council decided in 2016 not to continue their financial support.   A particularly bad weather day on the Sunday of the 2016 Show impacted our visitor numbers and income, and we have sought assistance from South Ayrshire Council – after 7 weeks of discussion we were advised on Friday of last week that financial help would not be reinstated now or in the future.   

"This is a sad day for all involved but in retrospect what has been achieved has been about much success built out of an empty field and from empty pockets – congratulations and thanks are due to our many sponsors, patrons, contractors, societies, supporters, suppliers, exhibitors and volunteers over the years – but this sad outcome is a loss tocommunity effort & spirit, the fabric of our town and its heritage as well as the contribution to the economy.  

"Many thousands of people have attended Ayr Flower Show over the years and the Board are grateful for their input and support”

MSP for Ayr, John Scott called the move a "tragedy".

MSP John Scott said: “The Ayr Flower Show is much-loved by local people and visitors from across the country and makes a significant contribution to the local economy. 

"It will be a tragedy if it is lost to the area and especially so for want of what is in the scheme of things a very modest sum of public money.  I have been in discussion with the Chairman of the Flower Show to try and find a way forward and appeal to the Council to reverse their decision to no longer fund the Show so that, even at this late stage, it might be saved.”

Lesley Bloomer, South Ayrshire Council’s Executive Director – Economy, Neighbourhood and Environment, said: “We wholly recognise the huge amount of work the Board of Ayrshire Horticultural Society has undertaken in running Ayr Flower Show over the past 16 years.

“The Council – and our predecessor authorities – have supported the Ayr Flower Show for a number of years, running the event from 1960-1999 before the decision to withdraw the funding, in 2000, for financial reasons.

“We continued to support Ayrshire Horticultural Society – primarily in kind – when it reinstated the event in 2001 and worked closely with them to build a successful event. At their request, and to minimise any risk to the event, we agreed a three-year funding package for 2013-15 specifically for the purpose of underwriting the event – for example, if there was poor weather that impacted on visitor numbers.

“There was a full draw down of these funds (£20,000 per year) in each of these years. In fact, in 2015, the funding was provided, exceptionally, in advance due to the Flower Show’s cash flow difficulties.

“During this period, we worked closely with the Board to provide support for them to look at alterations to their business model to improve the sustainability of the event; however, this did not lead to any significant improvement in their financial position.

“In 2016, the decision was taken not to underwrite that year’s Flower Show; however, we did provide marketing support worth around £2,500 and also provided, prepared and cleared up the event site – worth an estimated £9,000.

“The Board’s statement today is disappointing as it’s fair to say that our support allowed the Flower Show to continue for longer than may have been feasible otherwise and masked financial difficulties that had existed for some time.

“However, we appreciate how sad and difficult it must be for them to take the decision that the current business model cannot continue.”