WOKING Beer Festival will not be returning after a two-year break during the pandemic, as the organisers have decided it is not viable to continue holding the event at the town’s leisure centre.

What would have been the 27th festival in November has been cancelled, with declining popularity and a shortage of volunteers to run it cited as the main reasons for not restarting.

One of the biggest beer festivals in the UK outside London, it has been staged by Surrey Hants Borders branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) since 1994, with breaks in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19.

The organising committee says it has taken a “hard look” at attendances, which have been falling since 2013. Initiatives to widen the appeal, including introducing quality gin and wine and relaying the Mighty Wurlitzer sing-along to the main hall, have not stopped the decline.

The distance of the leisure centre from the town centre, poor public transport links and bad weather in November have inhibited new customers from attending.

“We have also seen a decline in the number of volunteers coming forward to offer their time to help organise and run the festival,” said a committee spokesman. “This means that more work has to be done by fewer people and a significant amount of work is needed to restart a festival and regain the previous momentum.”

The CAMRA branch is discussing how it can run a smaller festival in a venue in or near the town centre, on the lines of other events run by the organisation.

Many, such as Kingston Beer Festival, do not sell tickets in advance or provide commemorative glasses, have a low entrance price and limit the amount of beer available, to avoid the risk of expensive unsold ale.