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.
  • Dan

    Bring on the cuts, the more the merrier.
    The sooner people appreciate their votes ( or lack of them) have consequences, the sooner things will change in NI.
    The first line should have been put through the funding of the August Feile though, given it’s Sinn Fein who have caused this crisis.

  • wil chamberlain

    As Director of the Festival of Fools, we have not been contacted by NITB, which is very poor on top of the cut, but you are quite right to point out that the Executive ignores economic impact when it suits them and rewards it at other times. We have commissioned independent evaluations in 10 out of 11 festivals and they have consistently proven a huge economic return for Northern Ireland, but this accounts for nothing with our completely dysfunctional Executive. On the same day Arlene Foster sanctioned cuts to Events fund, she initiated expensive legal proceedings against a fellow Minister in the Executive over a decision he made. The Executive incompetence has led to an estimated £30 million wasted on ESA reform which never took place; £9 million being lost on property investment in Ormiston House; Policing costs for flag protests amounting to at least £20 million; losses to business caused by flag protests coming to more than £15 million; Departmental overspend in just 6 months Department of Health £30 million. This is just the very beginning of a list of incompetence from ALL of our politicians from all parties over the past 7 years or so and it comes to more than £100 million without me having to even think hard. How many politicians or civil servants lost their jobs through this incompetence and profligacy? Oh, that’s right – not a single one! It’s not the lack of voting which cause the problem Dan, it is all of the people we vote for who are causing ruin for the people of Northern Ireland/ the North of Ireland!

  • Turgon

    One can emphasise to a significant extent with this. However, the last sentence looks very like “I’m not happy with the electorate: we need to change it for another one”. Unfortunately for assorted luvvies and other members of the intelligentsia that is not the way democracy works.

  • wil chamberlain

    I think you misinterpreted my comment Turgon. It’s not about me being happy or unhappy with the electorate. What I am unhappy with is the choice that we, the electorate have. We are limited in terms of both the parties and the system. I invite you to come and spend a couple of days working alongside me and then tell me that I am either a luvvie or part of any intelligentsia. I also understand that to some people anybody working in the arts is a luvvie who is out of touch with reality, but that impression is just a stereotype. Like any stereotype it may apply to some people but is not a good way to judge all people. I understand that democracy is complex and has numerous manifestations. You and me and all of the electorate have lost £100 million because of simple incompetence. That is a very real cost to our society and needs to be addressed. It has been caused not by a single party, but by all parties as far as I recall. We, the electorate, should try and change this. We have voted and the people we have voted for have cost us this money and much more besides – like I said the £100 million figure was just what I can remember without even trying. I don’t think that it is either unreasonable nor intellectual to point this out and to wish for change.

  • Dan

    Director of Festival of Fools……isn’t that the Stormont Speaker’s job?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And I thought it was David Cameron…….

  • Having attended one of the pre-application events last year, the sense had been that the NITB had linked funding to a Euro pot, which does question whether it has lost the Euro pot now or perhaps that was not the case.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Perhaps the most interesting Cultural event that has started recently, at least as far as I am concerned, is the “Happy Days Festival” at Enniskillen. I’ve just been looking to see how much state support it has managed to attract:

    So it can be done! NITB’s money is not the only route to cultural renewal. Sometimes there is real community interest which involves people supporting an event from the grass roots. While I agree with Wil that the executive are more concerned to ensure funding for their own survival than for any cultural event, surely if sufficient real public interest is there, the public will financially support the event to ensure it is an ongoing thing they would really miss!

    Unless, of course, the event has been developed entirely on a platform of State funding, something I’ve always discovered to be the very kiss of death to real creativity.

  • How is ‘Belfast Welcomes the Giro d’Italia’ a three year programme?

  • Bryan Magee

    Isn’t SF going to alienate its middle class voters with these kind of impacts?

  • smeeho

    Sean, go to the home page and have a look at the ‘Our Sponsors’ section. Happy Days was entirely funded by the public sector and was specifically invested in by the NiTB to bring cultural toruosm to Fermanagh. Sorry to disappoint, but if you want high class international arts events, somebody has to pay for them. The private sector here wouldn’t take the risk, so the public sector it is.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Most “middle Class” voters stopped having anything to do with culture the moment their degrees were concluded. Some even sooner, if what a friend recently told me is true. He asked his students what kind of books they read just for pleasure, away from the course. Blank looks and “none”.

  • René Mullin

    Agree entirely – just had a similar conversation with my cousin Aislinn Clarke (Wireless Mystery) Here is my response to her: Yep, as a ‘disadvantaged’, (council house, one parent) child my exposure to the culture & the arts was zero – call me disadvantaged if you like, however as you well know the depth of thinking from disadvantage is priceless and without it life would be so much less textured – my arts exposure has all been self explored and discovered as an adult. As an adult I can see that money poured into research, scientific, technological, infrastructure, manufacturing etc has often many dead ends and equally many commercially excellent results, creating employment, generating a multi layered community providing opportunity, ambition and purpose – the same as arts and culture – yet the ‘big boys’, the investment hosts etc rarely see arts and culture as a place to put their money. My point is not that I think there should be no investment in these areas but I do think this industry is unevenly propped up by public funding in ratios unlike other industries. How do we encourage investment in this sector? Perhaps one could argue in fact that the middle class (though I am unsure what this term means), children are being railroaded into these other ‘viable’ industries, and steered clear of seeing the value in investing in the arts and culture sector, you cannot make an industry appear to be viable commercially and attractive to outward investors if it is primarily fuelled by funding and handouts for the disadvantaged. This should not be a ‘class’ issue – it is a viability issue. Events need funding the same way that research needs funding, education needs funding, health needs funding, space exploration, aviation, power/energy, food, all these industries need funding – all the industries attract commercial funding because people understand the benefits – articulating the benefits is the issue and I can’t see how finding the £30,000 for culture night for example would be an issue if the right people were approached to fund it?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    For me, it’s an issue of enpowerment. It’s a bit like what has happened to music and football. Lots more people used to kick a ball about, now the emphasis is on something people watch rather than play. And even with popular music making, it’s karaoke, someone else’s songs! Art is something others, professionals, do. Not ordinary people. These funded festivals expect proposals for funding to show how professional they will be. The public sector professionals assessing projects have control through this, and the events reflect their concerns. The arts should be something that are generated by people, not institutions. That’s what I mean by the state funding being the kiss of death for creativity.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Sorry, smeeho, read the PDF lists of private sponcers as the main funding source.

    I must have been too impatient to wait for Java to reveil the home page frame that showed the Arts Council, NITB, (why the small ‘i’ for Ireland?) the British Council, Fermanagh District Council and Fermanagh Lakelands. Oh, and I almost forgot the Lottery……

    Being used, myself, to raising private funding for films out there in the real world, (sometimes in millions), I’d assumed you were doing the same thing from a few enlightened local companies and Beckett fans, perhaps even showing the initiative of approaching the many Beckett interest groups in the U.S. for inceptive funding. Sad to see your first class work tied into the same dreary old jumping through hoops sources with all the well known capriciousness of the “only half listening” public sector.

    And congratulations on your rapid response to counter my pipe dream of possible creative independence, something all too necessary as otherwise the public sector funders might think their all important contributiion was being slighted and might feel less generious.

    While I have nothing but praise for your work with the Festival so far, and have been sending links across the globe to all those I know who should be interested, I can now see that the Festival must, as time passes, be just as much subject to “entropic degeneration” as all the other “trougher” festivals funded by various state bodies, something I feel would be a genuine loss.

    But for now congratulations on starting from a uniquely high level of exciting creativity. What you have been doing is in my estimation the one event locally that can hold comparison with any similar arts festival across the globe. And that’s the feedback I’ve had from all those I’ve talked to in the U.S. and Europe. Keep up the good work until the demands of the Philistine Public Sector distorts it into something much less interesting.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Just listened to Nolan and the plank they dug up from SF coming up with the “principle” of big events/small events – “that there Open golfie thingie in Galgorm”… Don’t these eejits get briefed before they put themselves forward. God help us all!

  • BarrelOfPorter

    I agree with you by and large. The issue we face is that for a significant section of the electorate, I’d say the majority but it’s open to debate, the competence or otherwise of the elected representatives matters very little as long as they’re “us” and not “them”. There are myriad non aligned parties in NI, or “losers of deposits” as they’re sometimes known.