THE chairman of Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza has laid bare the challenges he faced ahead of this year's May bank holiday crowd-pleaser.

From a lack of funding, not enough support of volunteers and run-ins with the council, Chris Williams and his wife Claire had a lot on their shoulders.

Chris said: "This year has been quite stressful. The committee is smaller than it has ever really been in terms of the people that get involved and actually do the organising of it. That makes it difficult to a certain degree. There is less jobs to be spread about. A lot of it fell on my wife's shoulders and my shoulders and my wife is kind of done with it... she only does it because I want her to because I have been involved in the event for so long."

North Wales Pioneer: The big wheel at Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza 2024The big wheel at Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza 2024 (Image: Ryan Lloyd)
Chris has been involved in the Extravaganza for 20 years.

"I first came.. my first show, I had just turned 17. I am 40 now," Chris said.

"They had a meeting at the town hall to say the event was struggling and they needed new people to come and help. I went along and I offered to get involved as the entertainment co-ordinator for it. I was welcomed on board.

"I have seen the committee grow, we had a good committee, but over time... the stress of it gets to people. I have seen it affect other couples who have been running it, families and people have lost friends over it because there has been disagreements. I have seen it all really over the time I have been involved. 

"When I took over the licence holder role for the event, I didn't really understand the gravity of the role - especially being a volunteer. I then took on the chairman role, that was back in 2018. I didn't have a lot of time that year to make any changes because the wheels had already been set in motion. 

"The next year, I had all these plans. I did everything people asked me to do - I reduced the fairground to make it back to how it was and it was a huge success that year. There was so much entertainment, it was a lovely lovely event. It got great feedback and then sadly the world came to a halt and we had Covid."

North Wales Pioneer: Another favourite vintage ride! Fairground Carousel HorsesAnother favourite vintage ride! Fairground Carousel Horses (Image: Ryan Lloyd)
Chris said, in terms of the Extravaganza, the pandemic wasn't "terrible" as organisers were able to obtain some funding for the event. 

He said: "I wanted the committee to become more part of the community, so we tried to do extra events and sponsor. For example, Llandudno Football Club with a new mascot, and then the North Wales Golf Club with a tournament for the juniors and we got them a website built. 

"Our first event back, we decided to take on the Christmas Extravaganza and a lot of the funding went into that. 

"Our first May Extravaganza back, what happened in Ukraine started kicking off and that affected coal prices and fuel prices. About two weeks before that event, I got a phone call from one of the companies that provides generators to say our fuel costs and all our cost were going to go up.

"We didn't know whether to carry on but we knew people had already committed to putting the event on so we took the hit a bit... the funding only took us so far. 

North Wales Pioneer: A variety of steam and traction engines were on displayA variety of steam and traction engines were on display (Image: Ryan Lloyd)
"Whilst this was all going on, Conwy had decided to turn their attention to winter events opposed to summer events and they told us they would no longer be granting us any funding. 

"On the flip side - they said they would fund us for the Christmas event. This is all well and good but the May event still needs support and funding. It has just continued to snowball."

Chris said he 'broke' at the end of April 2024 when he got an email from Conwy Council reminding him that if he and the committee didn't clean the streets properly, they would be prosecuted.

"We do it every year," he said.

"That upset me because we are a volunteer committee - they threatened us with prosecution. It is not like we have said we don't want to use Conwy Council. We have had cash flow problems and bank issues at Christmas where the bank closed our bank account down because they were missing some paperwork.

"Thankfully the bank put their hands up and admitted it was their fault but it took a long time to resolve. It slowed down money coming into Christmas event and we couldn't get the council paid off straight away. Therefore, they insisted that all our money wass paid in advance for the event this year. We said 'we can't do that'. We want to use your services but we can pay before. 

"They also asked 'what is your back up plan?' in terms of street cleaning. We've got volunteers to clean the street and some skips in but we have had to remind them that it is still their responsibility, that we are still an open event that people walk through. They need to take care of the litter that is produced by the businesses that pay their rates."

Chris said, for him, it took the focus off the event. Instead of working to promote the event, he has had to deal with "stuff" in the background. 

"There is only so many hours you can give in a day," Chris said.

"My kids are being dragged to meetings at 6pm, we don't have childcare locally."

Chris said his heart is still very much in the event.

"I know what I'm doing it for," Chris said.

"For the nostalgia of it and the fact that I don't think there is a way you can make so many people happy in one go and there are so many benefits for Llandudno. It is the one thing that I can give back."

The event secured £15,000 from Llandudno Town Council. 

Chris said: "I want to give the town council massive credit. We followed the procedure of applying for more money and they came in and gave us a £15,000 grant for the event which really is a big help. We just really need the relief from the county council and to recognise what the volunteers and the committee are doing.

"I'm not a complainer. We have got our Magic Bar and that is a big thing, but my wife Claire said all she is doing is focusing on the Extravaganza. She said 'I haven't got an eye on my own business'.

"She isn't in the magic industry and she became very much part of the event world when she met me. We work well together, we bounce idea off each other. I sort of put forward these silly ideas and Claire makes it happen. 

"When she met me in the first few months she got me a present, just a little book that said 'make your dreams come true' on it. She said 'I want you to write all the things you want to achieve in here' and she said we will work through and make them happen. Events don't make a lot of money, but she knew at the time I was involved in the Extravaganza so she said 'right ok' and she came on board to help me get organise and she helped me get better at what I do."

Chris said he appreciates the decision by Conwy Council, to not support summer events financially, has been made at a "high level". 

"Even if they did a half price service for us and said we could pay at the end of the event, there is something in that which would help us," Chris said.

"Next year, Claire and I need to get more help. Well.. I need to get more people around me because Claire is officially done. She is finished with it. 

"She knows that I have got this vision of how I would like it to be so we need a few more good people around us and we need the community involved, and we need the community to support us and the council. That is the bottom line. That will make those financial burdens a little bit easier for us and for the council to be a little more understanding.

"This block from the council makes life difficult - we want to be working together. 

"I want to get the Extravaganza to a place where I can say to someone else 'here you go, this is everything you need to run the Extravaganza and it is all there, you guys can now fit it in to what it needs to be and take it forward.' That is what I want to be able to do. I felt I was getting close with that first event and now I feel like I am a million miles away.

"I think if I got hit by a car tomorrow, I would haunt the Extravaganza! I would have unfinished business. 

"I'm not done with it yet."

A spokesperson from Conwy County Borough Council said: "The Events Conwy team provide expertise and guidance to all event organisers to help their events remain safe, compliant and sustainable for years to come.

"In 2022 we advised we would transfer the events funding from the Victorian Extravaganza to the Christmas Extravaganza, which the organisers had just taken on. We committed to support this low season event for the next two years (2022 and 2023).

"This is in line with the Economic Growth Strategy and Destination Conwy Action Plan, which focus on developing new events in our tourism hot spots to help grow winter season tourism.

"However, due to the severe financial pressures that all councils are facing, financial support for events like the Victorian Extravaganza is currently not available.

"[In terms of street cleansing and litter] In previous years the Extravaganza organisers have paid for street cleansing services, in addition to our normal Bank Holiday arrangements.

"This year, the organisers decided not to pay for additional street cleansing. We were concerned by this decision, and highlighted to the organiser that all waste would need to be dealt with in accordance with relevant legislation.

"We advise event organisers that waste generated by their event is their legal responsibility and that all organisers should have suitable arrangements in place."

Chris is looking for groups that might want to raise money all year round ahead of the event next year and people that would like to volunteer. 

Contact or visit Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza (Official) on Facebook and send a message.