Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Minister's made the wrong call on events fund

Re Minister Nelson McCausland's unilateral decision to close the Laganside Events Fund.

Last year saw the Festival of Fools stage 79 performances in Cathedral Quarter which were seen by more than 14,000 people free of charge. These performances were also supported by 11 businesses in the area who invested into the festival because it clearly brings economic benefits to them.

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board agree because they have supported the festival. They have looked at the figures and know that each £1 invested brings about a return of more than £5 of additional expenditure from visitors. This is not joined up government.

Yet the minister for DSD has not talked to any events organisers and has not listened to the evidence which supports the economic, social and regeneration cases for the Events Fund.

The department makes a big play of investing in the Cathedral Quarter Steering Group and yet ignores the highest priority action identified by the CQSG for 2012 - the securing of Events Funding. This is not even a joined up department!

There has been an unprecedented public outcry following the minister's decision with more than 2,000 people signing up to a Facebook campaign over the course of a weekend.

Given the damage being done by this decision and the mishandling of the situation, I would invite Mr McCausland's colleagues on the Executive and in his party to have a word with him and advise him on the importance of getting this right.

Will Chamberlain

Belfast

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