Belfast Telegraph

Queen's axes funding for Festival

Queen's University has withdrawn funding for the Belfast Festival.

The event is the city's leading arts and cultural offering and has attracted talent from around the world.

The university said it took the decision because of financial challenges and significant cuts to the public purse which have disproportionately impacted upon both the culture and arts, and higher education sectors.

Pro-vice-chancellor for external affairs, Professor Tony Gallagher, said: "The university has been a significant patron of the arts since the Belfast Festival at Queen's inception over 50 years ago and has invested significant funding into its success.

"Queen's has also played a unique role in developing the cultural infrastructure for Belfast and the region. However, the university cannot continue to expose itself to an unacceptable level of financial risk."

The festival began in 1961 on the South Belfast campus.

Jimi Hendrix, Seamus Heaney, the Moscow State Ballet, Van Morrison, Ennio Morricone and Desmond Tutu are among those who have graced its stages.

Mr Gallagher said Queen's provided £120,000 a year and took the financial risk behind hosting the event.

He explained that, given the current financial climate with higher education suffering major funding cuts, that risk was no longer sustainable.

"Following a detailed strategic review of the Belfast Festival at Queen's by the festival's steering group, the university has decided, with great reluctance, not to continue with the Belfast Festival at Queen's.

"This decision is a consequence of financial challenges to the Belfast Festival at Queen's in recent years and significant cuts to the public purse, which have disproportionately impacted upon both the culture and arts, and higher education sectors."

A key recommendation of the review was to secure a three-year funding agreement to allow for long-term planning that consolidated a new minimum for public funding.

"The report recommended that the Belfast Festival at Queen's would need to grow its annual budget to approximately £2 million to enable investment in the quality programme required to achieve a world-class event.

"Unfortunately, in the current climate, this is not possible."

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