Festival remedy for Oban recovery

Crackin Craic were also on hand to entertain the crowd. 17_19_HIMDF13

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Oban’s festivals will be a strong point in the town’s recovery from Covid, event organisers have been told.

With three new festivals waiting in the wings, including one to engage Oban’s Irish community, representatives of some of the town’s biggest established events got together on Zoom  to plan a post-virus comeback.

The online meeting was called as a necessity by Highlands and Islands Music and Dance Festival (HIMDF) –  the popular event would have been in its 38th year if the virus had not wiped it out.

Looking forward to a healthier future, HIMDF’s chairwoman Breege Smyth mooted an idea of a new organisation, with paid staff, being set up to run ‘a cool’ website that would advertise and sell tickets for all of Oban’s festivals taking on admin work, including applying for big funding.

She said there was currently ‘a whole raft of duplication’ going on among the different festivals that could be avoided and free up organisers to do what they like doing best – creating the events.

As well as coming up with a single festival strategy to turn Oban into a festival town, technical help updating websites, widening social media outreach and receiving more funding were also included on a preliminary wish list drawn up during Monday’s meeting.

Getting endorsements from Argyll and Bute Council, as well as making more use of its safety advisory group were also highlighted as useful steps forward.

Oban councillors Elaine Robertson and Jim Lynch pledged to do all they can to help support festival organisers.

BID4Oban chief executive Andrew Spence told the meeting on Monday January 18 the huge economic impact festivals have on Oban cannot be underestimated.

‘These festivals will be a strong point in this town’s recovery as it comes out the other side of Covid,’ he said, supporting the idea of looking at employing someone on a trial basis to support events and pull them all together.

Although some events, including a gin festival and sea shanty festival will not be going ahead this year, not everything is completely cancelled.

A visit from 10metre tall sea kelpie puppet STORM is still in the offing at the end of September, the local Mod is thinking about a virtual version for 2021, West Highland Yachting Week remains hopeful it will be able to put on some kind of event this year, while Benderloch’s Bookends festival has funding in place for this year and has been collaborating with other book events from Wigtown to the Borders sharing their online content.

Oban Live says its door is always open to running another event, The View’s Daniel MacIntyre vowed his  continued support as a venue for festivals when restrictions allow, and Feis Latharna, a voluntary-led community organisation  promoting traditional music and Gaelic Arts, is continuing – despite Covid – to offer Saturday online classes.

A date for a follow-up meeting among representatives is now being arranged.