Derry Council in talks with Clipper for Maritime Festival 2024 amid funding constraints

Derry City and Strabane council officers said they are actively engaging with Clipper Ventures to discuss the feasibility of hosting the Clipper 2023/24 Race as a part of the biannual Foyle Maritime Festival celebrations in summer 2024.

Members of the Council’s Business and Culture Committee have endorsed the continuation of negotiations following a report on the plans for the festival, which highlighted the challenges of maintaining the same impact as before due to cost-saving measures implemented during the rates process.

Aeidin McCarter, Council’s Head of Culture, presented the report to the committee, stating: “While the overall programming of the festival can still be done, it will be difficult to maintain the rights fee previously paid to Clipper Ventures and maintain a festival programme with the same impact.”

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She added that if the council members were content, they would propose continuing negotiations with Clipper Ventures without a rights fee, expecting the talks to conclude by the end of April when the race needs to confirm a stopover schedule.

The colourful Clipper Race Fleet moored at the Foyle Marina. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2228GS – 049
The colourful Clipper Race Fleet moored at the Foyle Marina. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2228GS – 049
The colourful Clipper Race Fleet moored at the Foyle Marina. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2228GS – 049

Ms. McCarter warned that without the involvement of Clipper Ventures or another international element, the festival might lose its status as an international event, rendering it ineligible for the TNI International Events Funding Programme. The 2022 event received £110K.

However, she noted that the event would still qualify for Tourism NI’s National Tourism Events Sponsorship Scheme, which awards a maximum of £30,000.

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She said: “Members should also note that if no rights fee is paid, the race may not stay for the same duration or it may not be possible to schedule the race start on a Sunday or weekend day.”

The report highlighted that council members have allocated £500,000 for the Major Events Budget, spanning two financial years. Of this amount, £400,000 is proposed to be used for funding the 2024 Foyle Maritime Festival. The remaining £100,000 is recommended to be invested in the Halloween event to ensure it maintains its international status, as it has in previous years.

Thousands of people visited Derry’s Foyle Maritime Festival. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2229GS – 089
Thousands of people visited Derry’s Foyle Maritime Festival. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2229GS – 089
Thousands of people visited Derry’s Foyle Maritime Festival. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2229GS – 089

SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell raised concerns about the future of the Foyle Maritime Festival if the Clipper Race were not to participate.

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He said: “I know negotiations are ongoing and I know that the £250k that we paid previously isn’t on the table and that might be a stumbling block with Clipper Ventures. If it comes to pass that the Clipper doesn’t come, are we still going to proceed with some form of Foyle Maritime Festival?”

Ms. McCarter assured him that the festival would proceed, saying: “There is an awful lot of animation, an awful lot of activity that happens irrespective of the Clipper Race, and officers have been mindful of that over the last number of years that there may come a time when the Clipper Race might not be here for all sorts of reasons.”

Derry City and Strabane District Council last year confirmed that upwards of 150,000 people flocked to join in the celebrations, which made a welcome return after a two-year delay due to the Covid pandemic.

Clippers from the race fleet and the tall ship Phoenix moored at the Foyle Maritime Festival. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2229GS – 003
Clippers from the race fleet and the tall ship Phoenix moored at the Foyle Maritime Festival. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2229GS – 003
Clippers from the race fleet and the tall ship Phoenix moored at the Foyle Maritime Festival. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2229GS – 003
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The 2022 event was the fifth maritime celebration of its kind to be held in the City, and marked the ten-year anniversary since the Council first partnered with Clipper Ventures as a host port in the internationally acclaimed Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter