Shock as Council pulls festival funding

Oliver Green, Greater Shantallow Community Arts Manager.
Oliver Green, Greater Shantallow Community Arts Manager.

One of Derry’s most popular summer festivals has been refused vital funding meaning that for the first time in 16 years, the event may not go ahead this year.

The Earhart Festival which takes place annually in the Galliagh and Shantallow areas involves hundreds of local people as well as participants from right across the city.

On April 2, staff at Greater Shantallow Community Arts (GSCA), who run the annual event, were informed in a letter from the former Derry City Council that they had not met the criteria for legacy funding for this year’s festival. Legacy funding is provided by the local council in partnership with the Arts Council.

GSCA Director Ollie Green has now pledged to challenge the decision taken by Derry and Strabane District Council and has already written to local representatives and MLA’s.

In the letter, he states: “Earlier this month we were informed of the decision taken by councillors not to support the Earhart Community Arts Festival 2015 or indeed the Outer North area’s participation in St Patrick’s Day and Hallowe’en Cultural Carnival celebrations on the basis that we had not achieved a ‘high ranking’ in the Public Benefit criteria within our Legacy Funding application we were both shocked and saddened.”

Mr. Green continues: “We are fully aware of the competitive nature of funding and as ever the budgets are limited and we wish all those projects which did get funding the very best. We are not in a position to judge the public benefit or otherwise of other projects - only councillors and officers from Council and ACNI get to make those decisions - but we can and will publicly challenge how these decisions are reached and the rationale used to inform such decisions.

“The people of our community are entitled to be treated with equality and independent non-aligned organisations such as ours are entitled to be afforded equality of judgement when it comes to accessing resources on behalf of the communities we serve. We would ask for your support in ensuring that equality of opportunity has been administered on this occasion.”

Mr. Green added that the Earhart festival had impacted positively on thousands of people across the city.

He added: “For the past 16 years we have grown and developed the Earhart Community Arts Festival as a vehicle for engaging many thousands of local young people and residents in arts and cultural activities, giving a platform for the cultural and creative expression that our community has in abundance and providing a time for community celebration and showcasing of all that is most positive about our city and region. Last year’s programme was hugely successful and we are hugely shocked at this decision,”