Belfast Telegraph

Festival funding talks 'positive'

By Matthew McCreary

A meeting between Northern Ireland's Arts Minister and Queen's University over the future of the Belfast Festival has been hailed as "positive" .

Talks were held between Edwin Poots, Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, and the university's Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Gerry McCormac earlier this week, at which the issue of funding for the event was raised. Earlier this year Queen's announced that it would be forced to scrap the event unless more public funding was made available.

Following a campaign by Queen's University and the Belfast Telegraph in January and February, a £150,000 funding lifeline was agreed by then direct rule Arts Minister Maria Eagle for the 2007 festival.

This was only enough to sustain the festival for one more year, however, and the long-term future of the event is still in doubt.

Mr Poots said that the meeting had explored options on how to make the festival "even better in years to come".

He said: "As ticket sales increase and tourism benefits with increased hotel bookings, it is clear that the public across Northern Ireland and further afield enjoy the festival and want it to continue."

He added, however: "To enable that to happen and to put the Festival on a more sustainable footing, private sector sponsorship is vitally important.

"Local government and philanthropy also have roles to play in supporting the arts in general.

"While I have secured a small increase for arts funding in the draft budget which is out for consultation at present, it will be for the Arts Council to determine how it allocates its resources."

South Belfast Assemblyman Jimmy Spratt, who helped to facilitate the meeting, said he welcomed a commitment from the Arts Minister to look at ways of funding the festival in future.

"The Belfast Festival is a credit to its organisers and the enjoyment it gives to both local people and those from further afield is testament to this," he said.

He added: "I welcome the commitment by the minister to look at the funding issue and am delighted that the meeting about the future of the festival was so positive."

Belfast Telegraph


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