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Arts festival could face major cutbacks

By Matthew McCreary

Organisers of one of Belfast's biggest arts festivals say it could face serious cutbacks due to uncertainties over its funding.

The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, which brings hundreds of thousands of pounds into the city centre economy every year, currently receives around a quarter of its funding from the Laganside Corporation.

But the public body - which has played a key role in redeveloping the area over the last number of years - is due to be wound up next March and its assets and responsibilities transferred to the Department for Social Development. This has led to concerns over how effectively the funding needed to sustain the festival can be distributed.

"Laganside were able to disperse funds with a relative lack of bureaucracy, so the money was easy to access," said festival director Sean Kelly.

"The DSD as a government agency operates along very different lines and there are quite strong fears within the arts sector operating in the Cathedral Quarter that drawing down the money for arts events from them might become a very convoluted and difficult process."

Mr Kelly said he is facing difficulties in trying to book acts for next May's festival.

He said: "If my budget isn't looking robust for 2007 or if there are going to be cash flow difficulties then I will very seriously have to restrict the scale and breadth of next year's festival."

A spokeswoman for the DSD said: "We are totally committed to supporting the development of the arts in the Cathedral Quarter in line with the excellent contribution made by Laganside."


From Belfast Telegraph