Council has a small purse for festivals, 'Lady' organisers told

Published: 2 Aug 2012 12:300 comments

THE organiser of the Lady of the Lake Festival has questioned the commitment of Fermanagh District Council after he was told this week that rates would have to be increased if he wanted more money to hold the annual event.

Members of the Lady of The Lake committee Lisa Wallace, chairperson; Ivan Bradshaw, sponsor, Julie Webb and Joe Mahon, vice-chairman.

Joe Mahon, along with other committee members, Ivan Bradshaw, Lisa Wallace and Julie Webb, met with Chief Executive Brendan Hegarty, Director of Leisure, Tourism and Arts Robert Gibson and Bawnacre Manager George Beacom this week.

The group told the Council that more money than the £1,800 donated should be given to the Irvinestown festival which they say costs £20,000 to run and attracts people from all over the world. They were told that the Council only has a small amount of money available for festival funding. A Council spokesperson clarified the position yesterday, saying: "This is because 88 per cent of the Council's nett expenditure is funded from the ratepayer. Therefore, any additional expenditure will fall as an additional burden on the ratepayer unless the Council can find other savings".

Speaking after the meeting, Mr. Mahon said: "Overall I am still not happy with the commitment to community festivals, such as the Lady of the Lake. This year it was a tremendous success with over 45,000 people attending events throughout the festival. I think more support should be given from the Northern Ireland Tourism Board and Fermanagh Council, not only in hard cash but in providing equipment for events and marketing the event".

While he continues to hold these views the hotelier says he is grateful to the Council for the grant and providing the use of facilities during the festival and the assistance of Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism.

He added: "If the committee had some more money available it would be able to put on a lot more street entertainment. Money can be found for other events like the upcoming Beckett festival. I am glad to have an event like this coming to Fermanagh and I hope it is a success and wish the organisers all the best. I hope that it achieves the success that the Lady of the Lake festival has done in bringing tourists to Fermanagh".

He told the Council at Monday's meeting that this year's festival, which raised over £50,000 for charity, had visitors from as far away as Trinidad and Canada. He praised the financial support and the hard working voluntary committee putting the effort in on the ground and thanked local business from all around Fermanagh, including hotels, B&Bs and shops for their support in letters, emails and financial contributions following the festival.

"They all realise the importance of the Lady of the Lake festival to the local economy," he said.

Ivan Bradshaw, who has spoken out about his issues with the Council in the past, described the meeting as "fair".

"The Council advised us that they only have a small purse for festivals. We discussed the Beckett Festival and the sponsorship given to it from government bodies. Will it bring the same numbers the festival brings? They even have it advertised at the Olympics. They are two totally different events. The Beckett Festival is going to bring the scholars to Enniskillen and the Lady of the Lake Festival brings your ordinary worker from Fermanagh," he said.

The businessman says he is "fed up" with politicians who meet with the Council and "come up with nothing at the end of it".

"We need to be lobbying the Council through our politicians, what happens if they go into more stringent budgets next year? The local councillors need to be saying to the Council - we need to get £20,000 out of here to be helping the Lady of the Lake Festival. They need to support the outside sponsors," he said.

Mr. Bradshaw said the committee "made no apology" for speaking out and added: "The Council didn't apologise to the committee but now we have a clearer understanding of the protocols".

In a statement yesterday, a spokesperson for Fermanagh District Council said the meeting provided an opportunity for Council Officers present to hear the concerns of the committee members.  

"It also gave the opportunity for Officers to clarify the extent of the Council's support and for members of the committee present to consider the actual support given. The Council has been actively seeking funding from outside funding sources over the past number of years to support festivals and events in Fermanagh for the purchase of equipment, marketing and training, however without success to date but some applications are still live. Even if successful, there would be a match funding requirement from the Council".

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