Pub in the Park organisers say there are plans to ‘incorporate other areas of Marlow’ into the four-day festival – but some locals think a full relocation could be best for the town.

Tom Kerridge’s annual celebration of all things food and music was born in Higginson Park seven years ago, with the aim of recreating – and elevating – the “very best” of a British beer garden, complete with gourmet food and drink and chart-topping music.

With an ever-expanding range of attractions, not to mention three other stops across the UK, some believe the festival has “outgrown” its flagship venue – an opinion fuelled by the “bigger and better than ever” rhetoric espoused by new organisers Pub in the Park Limited following the collapse of its predecessor Brand Events last summer.

Mervyn Buston, who lived in Marlow for 38 years before moving nearby to Maidenhead, said he thinks the festival is no longer suited to its Thames-side location, pointing to its size disparity with Pub in the Park’s other sites in Chiswick, St Albans and Reigate, which are “much larger, with more space”.

Mr Buston said he had spotted litter left along the High Street near Higginson Park on Saturday, May 18, two days after this year’s event kicked into gear, and likened the visual effect to “the aftermath of a political rally in Hyde Park, rather than (what you would expect from) a small town in leafy Buckinghamshire”.

He also suggested that the council’s last-minute postponement of a temporary closure of Marlow Bridge so as not to coincide with Pub in the Park and simultaneous work to replant flower beds on the High Street were evidence that the park was an “inappropriate” place for such a large-scale event because of its centrality.

Adding: “Maybe it needs a new venue and could be moved to Gossmore Park or possibly the Rugby Club, which has ample on-site parking and where the pitches aren’t being used at this time of year.”

The former resident is not alone in his concerns about the festival’s impact on Higginson Park – co-chair of The Marlow Society Andrew Wood described the “state” of the green space after this year’s festival as “distressing” but reasoned that a relocation to the Rugby Club on Riverwoods Drive might “cause considerable noise to people living on the other side of the river”.

READ MORE: Caravan gets stuck between Marlow Bridge bollards amid ongoing inspection work

The Marlow Society launched a petition urging Buckinghamshire Council to “stop events that exploit Higginson Park” back in January 2023, railing against the allowance of “commercial event organisers to allocate a budget for the inevitable damage they’ll leave in their wake”.

It came after the organisers of Pub in the Park’s short-lived sister event Christmas in the Park revealed they had earmarked £20,000 for repairs to the grassland in Higginson Park following the December celebration.

Steve Lane, Managing Director of the food and music festival, told the Free Press in November that limited capacity in the park meant an expansion of some form was likely to be on the cards, describing it as a “conversation that will definitely be had at some point”.

Speaking this week, Mr Lane said that while organisers were “exploring ways to incorporate other sites within and outside of the town” in future events, they were planning to “keep the park and river at the heart” of Pub in the Park.

He added: “Pub in the Park is the largest annual community event in Marlow and a very popular and successful use of the park. Of the 30,000 visits this year, approximately 30 per cent live within walking distance and 70 per cent within ten miles.

“This is an extremely high level of local support for any event or local activity, and we are hugely grateful for this immense support from the town and the nearby area.

“On top of being hugely popular amongst the community, the event generates significant inward investment into the local Marlow economy, promotes tourism to the town and has fundraised or donated over £500k for local charities since its inception in 2017.”