Festival funding approved despite doubt some will happen

Organisers of Cowal Highland Gathering are considering holding a one-day live music/mini festival event.

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More than £50,000 of funding has been allocated to events across Argyll and Bute – despite continuing doubt over whether they will take place.

A total of eight different allocations from the council’s strategic events and festivals (SEF) fund were recommended for approval by its policy and resources committee at a virtual meeting last week.

Some of the events in question have already been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is planned to stage scaled-down occasions in their place.

These include the Cowal Highland Gathering. Its original planned £30,000 award has been reduced to £10,000 under the new proposals.

All eight events are scheduled to be held between July and December 2021. Two other events earmarked for funding – Inveraray Highland Games and Tiree Music Festival – have already been cancelled.

Applications for the latest phase of the fund closed in December 2020, with a decision having been delayed by the policy and resources committee in February due to the continuing uncertainty over gatherings.

In a report, executive director Kirsty Flanagan said: ‘Whilst there is still uncertainty and unpredictability it is hoped that events will be able to go ahead at some point later in the year.’

Members were asked to award in principle eight grants, currently totalling £56,850. It was proposed that any underspend from SEF round three (2021/22) was earmarked and used to augment a future SEF round for 2023/24.

Ms Flanagan added in her report: ‘At the time of agreeing to holding an SEF round three it was hoped that there would be a greater likelihood that mass gatherings may be able to be held in 2021/22 and it would be a more positive outlook for events.

‘Unfortunately to date that has not proven to be the case and it is still unclear as to when events will be able to go ahead. The fact that five events have already advised of their cancellation further reinforces the uncertainty facing event organisers.

‘It should be noted that the organisation of one of these cancelled events, Cowal Highland Gathering, which would normally take place over a weekend, is still considering holding a one-day live music/mini festival event and a sum has been allocated should this prove feasible.

‘This is the same for Jura Music Festival and Dunoon Multi Sports, both of which may hold a more localised event.’

Councillor Alastair Redman, policy lead for Business, Regeneration and Commercial Development, said: ‘Events and festivals provide substantial economic benefits by attracting visitors to Argyll and Bute. We understand these are extraordinary and challenging times for event organisers and we share the disappointment of having to cancel much anticipated events due to the pandemic. Whilst there is still uncertainty and unpredictability just now, we hope that the event season can return in full next year.’