£35k subvention to lure national festival on Halloween or MTV scale

Derry City and Strabane District Councillors remained tight-lipped on the identity of a major '˜national event' that's being lined up by the local authority for 2017/18, when voting through a recommendation to provide £35,000 in support at its Business and Culture Committee this week.

The money was requested under a match-funding scheme to attract “one off opportunity festivals” to the city and district, the council’s culture boss Aeidin McCarter told committee members.

Whilst the council is not yet naming the festival as a courtesy to four applicants to the local National Events Subvention fund, while the process is completed, the scale of the proposed jamboree is known.

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It’s proposed the ‘national’ event will attract 20,000 people, which would be on the same scale as Hallowe’en and recent MTV events in the city.

It will also equate to 1,400 bed nights, the organisers, claimed, in their successful bid.

According to the council the event organisers will be spending over £200,000 on the festival.

And with council support of £35,000, that’s up to close to the £250,000 expenditure the local authority incurs putting on the much loved City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival every year.

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Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Alderman Derek Hussey, not a committee member but who was sitting in, asked Ms. McCarter if there was a reason for omitting the names of the various applicants.

Ms. McCarter said the council didn’t want to put the identity of the festival into the public domain without informing the applicants first.

SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney said: “I take Alderman Hussey’s point on board but I don’t think that it’s that important, it’s the audience numbers and what it will bring to the city that is the important part.”

Councillor Tierney’s party colleague John Boyle concurred.

“The good news is we’re prepared to contribute £35,000 to a national event that will attract spending to the city.”

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He said citizens could rest assured that it’s a “wonderful festival”.

Two other major festivals made it into a final run-off but were ultimately unsuccessful.

The organisers of one projected a £317,600 spend minus council support and suggested it would attract 9,950 people to the city in September.

Another organiser pledged they would spend £127,400 on their major event and attract up to 10,000 people to Derry this year.