Workshop to discuss funding for festivals

Workshop to discuss funding for festivals

5 December 2018

ALL Downpatrick councillors are being encouraged to attend a workshop this Friday to look at Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s funding of community festivals across the district.

The event has been organised in the wake of concerns raised by Cllr Cadogan Enright who is keen for as much political representation at the workshop as possible.

The event takes place just a week after the Ardglass Festival Association revealed that its applications for council funding for summer festivals in 2017 and this year were rejected, along with a bid for financial support for this year’s Christmas events in the village.

The Association said its “frustration and disappointment” was compounded by the fact that the local authority awarded six villages money to cover the expense of their respective Christmas events, without the need for formal applications.

Cllr Enright said that in addition to the Ardglass festival, other festivals in areas such as Killyleagh, Spa, Killough and Downpatrick needed to be put on a more secure footing when it came to securing financial support from the council under a so-called ‘service level agreement’.

“This is especially important where other funding bodies were involved like the Carol Ships Festival in Strangford which is jointly funded by Ards and North Down Council,” he continued.

Cllr Enright said he was keen to see all Downpatrick councillors taking part in Friday’s workshop to address the current funding situation.

He continued: “It is my contention that the current system damages our tourism profile in East Down. For the past few years we have been unable to tell Tourism NI or Bord Fáilte when our festivals were likely to take place as the local authority does not even have a calendar of events looking forward. 

“Most festivals run at the same time each year in the Down area and it would not be a difficult task to publish a calendar that would cover a five year period to include both council tourism and community-led events.”

Cllr Enright believes the introduction of such a calendar would have several benefits, ensuring there would be no overlapping of festivals in the same area, allowing Tourism NI to be aware of them well in advance and local festivals and events appearing in their brochures and in tourism offices at home and abroad.

Gerry Casey, from the Ardglass Festival Association, described the current funding mechanism in place for community festivals as “inadequate”.

He continued: “Villages cannot plan ahead with such short-term annualised funding. The process in the new council makes funding for these festivals precarious and uncertain from year to year and inhibits festival organisers booking in advance to get best prices or being able to secure match funding from elsewhere.

“The Ardglass festival has been running for 49 consecutive years and been funded for 47 of those. Over the past two years, ours was one of the community festivals that had been unsuccessful in securing council funding.”

Mr Casey added: “As we approach our 50th anniversary, it would be a boost if we knew we had funding in good time, allowing our festival to be included in tourism brochures next year.”