A POLITICAL row has broken out over two Southampton music festivals, one backed by Labour and the other by the Tories, which take place within days of each other.

The Liberal Democrats last night called for organisers to set aside political differences, pool resources and merge the free festivals for a “bigger impact”.

Southampton’s Guildhall Square was today due to play host to a new event, So: Fest , which has been launched with the backing of the new Labour council, which pledged to give the city its own festival again.

The festival, featuring five local dance, rock, electro and soul acts, has received £10,000 of council funding.

On Wednesday, Music in The City , a five-day celebration of music around the city from jazz and flamenco to reggae and rock, returns for the third year across 11 venues, organised by two Conservative councillors.

It was given £25,000 of council funding last year but will this year receive just £2,000.

Lib Dem group leader Cllr Adrian Vinson said: “It seems a pity that the two events should be taking place within a week of each other when the pooling of resources could make a bigger impact and make a significant start on the major festival, which Southampton undoubtedly needs as part of its cultural offer.”

Former council officer Charlie Hislop and Tony Gumm, a project manager who worked to organise Music in the City last year, were asked by the council’s new administration to set up So: Fest, which Labour leaders now hope will grow into a south coast rival to the Edinburgh Festival.

The council’s leisure boss Cllr Warwick Payne said that although So: Fest was a one-day event he hoped it would grow and become a new festival brand for Southampton.

He added: “Music in the City is entering its third year and would be the kind of thing that would tie in with the Southampton Festival.”

He ruled out So: Fest ever becoming a Reading-style music festival on the Common, but said the idea was to keep visitors and money in the city after the boat show ends in September.

“Our hope is that it will become a counterbalance to the Edinburgh Festival,” he said, creating an Edinburgh “lite”.

Conservative councillors Linda Norris and Peter Baillie said there was space for both events and they were grateful for the council support this year.

Cllr Norris said: “There is room for a lot more music in Southampton. Edinburgh didn’t start in a week.”

So: Fest is being held today in Guildhall Square from 4pm to 10pm, headlined by Artful, the act which helped Craig David shoot to fame in 1999.

Other local acts include Burn the Fleet, Scarlet Soho, LST, Welcome Pariah, Soma High, and Charley Macaulay.