The budget for an open funding call for community run festivals has been almost doubled following the decision at Monday night's monthly council meeting to remove around 12% from the budget for the councils Giant Adventures events. £195K will now be made available for comunity led festivals instead of the previous £105K.

A vote was taken on two different scenarios following a decision at a previous Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism meeting to split festival funding 15% /85% between the funding call and the main council tourism events. Scenario two was approved which will see cuts to council run festivals: Festival of Flight from £140K to £122K; Footsteps in the Forest from £85K to £74K; Wake the Giant from £100K to £87K and City of Merchants from £100K to £87K. The newly agreed festival for 2018 the Guardians of the Mournes which encompasses the four above festivals  will also be cut from £128K to £112K.

Pride in Newry has seen a 58% cut in council funding in the pas three years. It's hoped that Newry, Mourne and Down District Council's decision to increase the funding pot will help local  community led events. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ www.newry.ie
Pride in Newry has seen a 58% cut in council funding in the past three years. It's hoped that this weeks Newry, Mourne and Down District Council's decision to increase the funding pot will help local community led events. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ www.newry.ie

Councill officers will now review the feasibility of delivering these events to the same scale as last year and the overal concept of the Guardian of the Mournes festival will also be reviewed including a previous decision to construct more giants.

Open Funding Call

It's expected that criteria for potential applicants will include an aim to grow the number of visitors from Southern Ireland and overseas, events should have the ability to attract significant overnight stays in the district, the capacity to grow and attract commercial sponsorshop and events should reinforce key themes of Outdoor Capital, Giant Adventures, Music and Culture and Economic Support of local businesses.

The budget for community events at Halloween and Christmas will be ringfenced and is not subject to this open funding call.

Great news for community activists who have been organising festivals on a shoestring budget

Welcoming the decision to allocate more for community run festivals Slieve Gullion Councillor, Pete Byrne said ‘"This is great news for those community activists who have been organising festivals on a shoestring budget over the last number of years. From the outset my only aim was to ensure fairness for Community organised festivals, some of which have struggled due to budget cuts. If Newry, Mourne and Down is to become the premier tourist destination which it has set out to be, we need Council led and community organised festivals working hand in hand.

"Some have attempted to dismiss our proposal by steering debate more positively in favour of Council led festivals. To be clear, this isn’t about favouring one event over another, nor does our proposal represent a cut. We asked for an 85%-15% split of the current available budget between Council and community organised events. This in effect doubles the funding pot for community organised festivals and represents a fair and more practical approach to funding festivals in our district."

Cllr Byrne concluded "We were simply not comfortable with growing Council led festivals exponentially at the expense of those organised by the community. Pride in Newry received a 58% cut in funding over the last 3 years. This ever-popular festival has been scrapping the barrel in terms of funding and I believe this to be completely unfair. Under this proposal, community festivals now have the ability to grow and can continue to contribute positively to our tourism product."