STROUD may lose it annual Fringe Festival if a volunteer cannot be found to run it.

Organisers Sue Torres and John Eeles said this week the final curtain may have fallen on one of the highlights of the Stroud Valleys.

After nine years of running the Festival, they have decided to bow out. "It's a little like handing a baby back to the parents after being the nanny," said Sue.

"The Festival management feels the time is right to let the community reclaim the running of such a well-loved national event." Sue and John have given their time free of charge over the last nine years.

"If we took wages, the Festival would be a glorified fete, " said Sue. The festival is put together by a team of 15 volunteers throughout the year."

"We are immensely grateful to Stroud Town Council, the district council and the businesses that have supported us throughout the last nine years," said John.

"But encouragement, help and goodwill from town traders has been diminishing." One of the complaints about the festival has been the lack of market stalls but Sue said: "When we started out, a large number of shops were empty."

"Now, more market stalls are wanted by visitors but some shops don't like them outside their businesses.

"The lack of stalls impacts on our budget. We spent £10,000 on street entertainment this year, which is lost money."

"There have been a lot of events riding on the back of the Festival," added Sue. "For example Nelson Street and the Artspace both put on free Saturday night events, which were very popular but contributed to us being 30 percent down on tickets. We couldn't have loud shows on the Subscription Rooms' forecourt either, because of noise restrictions."

"We'd like to open a debate," said John. "Does Stroud want a Festival, what sort of Festival does it want and is somebody prepared to take it on?" "It could run very easily if all the interested parties got together. All it would need is an administrator.

"If no-one comes forward the Festival will close." Sue and John will continue to organise other events.

Anyone with suggestions for the future of the Fringe Festival or who would like to volunteer to run it should contact Sheral at Stroud Town Council offices on London Road or call Sue Torres on 01452 741522.