Members of the Council’s Business and Culture Committee were given an update on the festivals at the June meeting with Aeidin McCarter, Council’s Head of Culture, informing members that officers had submitted an application for funding support of £150,000 to Tourism Northern Ireland. This is the maximum budget that an international event can be awarded, however Tourism NI recently advised that due to budget cuts only £110,000 has been secured for the Foyle Maritime Festival.
Derry Hallowe’en event planning is facing similar issues with the application to Tourism NI international event fund for £150,000 for the 2022 festival receiving a response that only £118,000 will be made available, again due to budget cuts.
Sinn Fein Councillor Conor Heaney laid the blame for the cuts firmly on Brexit saying: “These budget cuts are a direct result of Brexit, this is the outworking of Brexit in terms of the loss of EU funding to the Department for the Economy and Tourism NI so Brexit just isn’t about trade it’s having a direct result on our ratepayers with the loss of this funding and us having to review how we bring forward these festivals.
“It’s important people are aware of it and it’s only the beginning of the folly of Brexit and the fact we have been dragged out of the EU against our will.”
SDLP Councillor Rory Councillor Farrell laid the blame for the funding cuts at the door of the DUP.
“It has to be noted Tourism NI have cut their funding contribution and that’s because we have no budget at Stormont and we have no budget because we have no government and that’s due to the DUP’s stubbornness.
“The reality is until the DUP go back into government and put people first we are going to have festivals that have less funding than they should have and people will not enjoy them as much as they should so the DUP have a lot to do to earn people’s trust.”
The reduced funding from Tourism NI for the world famous Derry Hallowe’en event combined with cost increases may mean some aspects of the overall marketing and programming effort will have to be scaled back, representatives were told at the same meeting.
Aeidin McCarter said the overall budget for the event for 2022 is £470,000. This includes £328,000 from Derry City and Strabane council, £118,000 from Tourism NI and £24,000 from other income.
Councillors were informed that ‘ongoing discussions are being had with partners in the Executive Office and Donegal County Council to identify other opportunities to enhance this budget.’
Elected representatives were also given details of the 2022 event which will run from October 28th to 31st.
Ms McCarter said: “For 2022 the aim is to focus the ‘Awakening the Walled City’ across two zones, within the Walled City and at St Columb’s Park.
“The main Halloween parade and fireworks display will take place on October 31 in the traditional format and times. Officers are also planning Haunted markets, street entertainment, a Little Horrors children’s programme and much more throughout the festival.”
The Head of Culture added: “Members should note that in 2019 pre pandemic Derry Halloween attracted over 145,000 visitors and achieved 16,500 bed nights with over £3million in economic impact.”
An update report with full details on the wider event will be brought to members in September.
Proposing that council officers meet with some of the event providers, Sinn Féin Councillor Patricia Logue meanwhile voiced concern that with the ongoing cost of living crisis, many local families would struggle to be able to afford some of the rides and events for their children at the forthcoming festival.
“I do think, while it is great we will be welcoming visitors from all over the island and international visitors as well, we have a responsibility to our council residents and we need to ensure they can enjoy this festival to its fullest,” she said. “They don’t need to feel they can’t visit because of affordability and there is a big, big issue bringing children to festivals and paying prices which are out of the reach of a lot of people within the council district.”
The Moor DEA representative also stated she would ‘like to see more local stalls be given the opportunity to sell at the festival’.
The proposal was unanimously supported and the recommendations for the festival were also approved.
By Gillian Anderson
Local Democracy Reporter