NI Tourist Board cancel next year’s national events funding scheme #lightsoutni

On Friday afternoon, NI Tourist Board released a statement indicating that their national events fund would not operate in 2015/16.

Due to ongoing budgetary pressures across Government, the Tourism Events Fund for 2015/16 will not go ahead. To clarify, the International Tourism Events Fund will not open to new applications and the 1 year Tourism Events National Sponsorship Scheme will not operate for 2015/16.

The cancellation of the one year national events scheme could affect 65 organisations who benefited this year from £1,133k of funding (averaging £17.5k per event/organisation). [Data on previous years available from NITB website.]

national events part 1national events part 2

Eleven other organisations collectively receive £1,287,000 funding from NITB under the International Tourism Events Fund. Those already in the fund are working under a three year contract and are unaffected – though the fund won’t be open to new applicants. Belfast Festival released a statement on Friday expressing its concern at “the reduction in public financial support for the arts” and called “upon the policymakers to urgently reconsider their decision”.

NITB international events not impacted

This afternoon, 50-60 representatives of organisations met in Belfast’s Black Box to discuss Friday afternoon’s shock announcement. While sitting in Cathedral Quarter, there was an appreciation that the cut would affect organisations and events all around Northern Ireland.

lightsoutni black boxThe current political reality [Ed – dysfunction?] is causing funding cuts across all departments (except Health and Education) and all arms length bodies. Accounting officers in departments and organisations are required to make their budgets balance, and rapidly implementable cuts had to be found. However, attendees questioned the lack of explanation and rationale that had singled out the NITB national events fund.

The Tourist Board frequently cites visitors coming to Northern Ireland because of its people. Funding applications and post-event reporting collects information about the economic impact of events. Yet this data seems to go out the window when it comes to quick budget cuts.

Arts organisers this afternoon talked about how this cut would impact their spending with event caterers and programme printers. NITB funding accounts for a third of Culture Night Belfast’s funding. A couple of Friday nights ago, crowds thronged around the streets of Belfast. Many visitors had travelled from Dublin and England to experience the event, spending money in taxis, pubs, restaurants and hotels.

The chairman of the NI Tourish Board – Howard Hastings – will be one of those who will commercially feel this funding squeeze.

national events broken down by councilKieran Gilmore from Open House Festival spoke about the transformative affect events like Open House was having on towns like Bangor, helping increase community ownership and creating shared spaces.

St Patrick’s Festivals in Downpatrick and Armagh will be affected, along with events like Ulster Rally, NI Festival of Speed, Ultimate Strongman, CultureTech, Lap the Lough and Ferry’s Halloween Carnival.

This afternoon there was also the realisation that the funding crisis isn’t merely about austerity. It’s amplified by NI Executive not being fit for purpose.

The political deadlock that costs £40,000 every evening to police Twaddell Avenue, and the hundreds of thousands that the promised ‘graduated response’ rallies will cost dwarfs the amounts these organisations were being funded to attract tourist and transform communities.

One attendee feared that Northern Ireland would “turn into Albania again .. if this goes uncontested”, and become a grey lifeless place.

A wider meeting for affected organisations is planned for Wednesday evening at 6pm in Oh Yeah Music Centre on Gordon Street.

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Open House have added some details on their Facebook page about their NITB grant, event attendance and economic impact

  • The NITB accept an economic ratio of 3:1 To be eligible and to get through the rigorous application process the events must demonstrate that they generate at least £3 for every £1 of their funding, so the minimum amount generated in hard cash terms for the local economy in this financial year is £3,398,100
  • The cumulative impact over the next five years is particularly damaging, at a conservative estimate of £16,990,500
  • Most events generate far more than 3:1 and the tourist board accept this.

For example, in our own case

  • Open House Bangor 2014 Festival received £12,500 from the NITB Events Fund
  • 19,000 people attended our events – 50% of them came from outside of Bangor with 4% from outside of N.Ireland
  • From our festival budget we directly spent £32,000+ in the town itself
  • Using the NITB own matrix which is £18 spend x per head for local attendees, we estimate that by adding our own direct spend of £32,000 plus a higher spend by the 4% out-of-state visitors, Bangor festival generated approximately £400,000. Not a bad return for their £12.5K
  • We aren’t looking for sympathy or charity, simply an acknowledgement that it is an investment made on behalf of NITB and that the return is many times greater than the initial investment
  • But it’s not just about money, it’s equally about people and places. For many years local residents have been running Bangor down, but in the last few years they have started talking it up again. It’s about civic pride, community development, having a sense of ownership and transforming the place where we live. Eg, events such as Culture Night Belfast, Festival Of Fools, CQAF, Belfast Film Festival and Open House Festival helped transform Belfast as the city of troubles to the city of festivals.

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.