'Deeply disappointing': Only 2 large-scale events for Derry & NW's largest outdoor events space

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Derry City and Strabane District Council members have said that it is “deeply disappointing” that only two large-scale events will take place in Ebrington Square this year.

It follows an update report, which was presented to elected members at a Business and Culture Committee meeting on Tuesday.

The report also sought members’ approval to continue supporting the Executive Office (TEO) “with an interim process to enable large scale events to take place on Ebrington in 2025 and 2026”.

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A motion, put forward earlier this year, tasked officers with urgently engaging with TEO so that the council could “provide the management and oversight function of sustainable and cost-effective events”.

Council members said it was 'deeply disappointing' that only two large-scale events were planned for Ebrington Square this year.Council members said it was 'deeply disappointing' that only two large-scale events were planned for Ebrington Square this year.
Council members said it was 'deeply disappointing' that only two large-scale events were planned for Ebrington Square this year.

Director of Business and Culture, Aeidin McCarter, said: “Members will be aware that the council supported TEO with an open process to have events at Ebrington Square in 2024. A summary of the outcome of this process was brought to members in February.

“TEO have identified legal restrictions, including a limit on the number of events which can be held. They are committed to reviewing this as part of the overall strategy development, but the engagement process, design of a new strategy and any legal processes required is one which will take some time.

“The [application] process will involve a short, four-week expression of interest which would allow for the number of events to be assessed and determine if there was a requirement to move to a more detailed Stage 2. This is in line with the previous process for 2024.

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“To support 2025 and 2026 events Council officers are proposing to work with TEO to allow for up to five major events to take place at Ebrington in both 2025 and 2026.

“There were eight applicants [in 2024], with two for the same date and the top scoring applicant awarded that date. One applicant was withdrawn as they were unable to provide details of their acts six months in advance, another event withdrew due to operational reasons, and an event at the beginning of August did not respond to any requests for further information. This leaves just two events taking place.”

The market ‘may not be as strong as was hoped’, councillors were told.

“Feedback on this has been shared with TEO and they plan to look at the issues as part of their engagement process with a view to developing a longer-term development plan for events on the site.”

SDLP councillor Rory Farrell welcomed the continued “partnership approach” with TEO, but took issue with the number of events.

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“I know this is the initial year of this process,” Councillor Farrell said. “And I know there have been teething problems with this process but we don’t have five events this year, we only have two events.

“This is deeply, deeply disappointing, so can we be given any reassurances that we are going to maximise the five?

“I know we’re at the mercy of promoters, about not providing information or pulling out for unforeseen circumstances, but we’ve got a cap there of five. What can we do differently this time around to ensure that the events proceed?

"I think that’s something that we need to look at because we need to maximise Ebrington.

People in the city and district want events there but they’re not happening this summer.”

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Ms McCarter said the council was “at the mercy of the market and promoters”, but was hopeful some changes to the process would make it more efficient.

“There are a couple of things that are slightly different between this process and last time,” she said. “One is that it is open for two years so those promoters that need a longer lead in time can now submit for 2026.”

“Last time we also had to open a fairly quick process and asked any applicants to submit their details for stage 1 and 2.

“So the difference here is that we’re going out with an expression of interest, which is effectively stage 1, and we can then bring them into a workshop or have direct discussions with them to determine what their capability is before we would move to Stage 2.

“So that might give us a little bit more scope to talk directly to promoters and see... who’s able to deliver, all those sorts of things.”

Andrew Balfour

Local Democracy Reporter