Belfast Telegraph

Feile 'targeted and singled out' over funding says director

By Gareth Cross

The Director of the west Belfast Feile an Phobail has said he feels the festival is being unfairly singled out after plans to award the group more funding were questioned.

Kevin Gamble said the festival had a "proven track record" of delivering social and economic benefits to Belfast, but claimed the "festival was being singled out in council committees and in sections of the media".

He was speaking after concerns were raised over a council proposal to award £200,000 in extra funding to the festival in an attempt to promote it as one of Belfast's signature events.

Alliance councillor Sian O'Neill said there were concerns other groups could be missing out on available council funding and queried the application process for the additional funds.

She called for greater transparency on how council funding was issued.

There were calls to review the festival's funding last year after a concert by the Wolfe Tones descended into chants of 'IRA', with 'IRA' flags clearly on display.

In its accounts, Feile stated that it received £341,723 from Belfast City Council in 2017/18.

Mr Gamble said that Feile an Phobail went through the same application processes as everyone else.

"A host of other organisations and events are funded through the same funding process as Feile is funded," he said.

The festival director said that the event had an "enormous positive impact" on Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole.

"For every £1 invested, a return of £8.50 was generated. For 2018 this figure would be closer to £10," Mr Gamble said.

"For benefits to businesses in 2017 that amounted to £3.4m and in 2018 we estimate that was closer to £4m.

"In total around 100,000 people attended the 2018 Feile. Over 350 events took place, including 75 debates and discussions, 45 art exhibitions, a host of literary, sporting and theatre events, a massive carnival parade with over 4,000 people in attendance, a series of family events and three 10,000 capacity concerts."

Mr Gamble said that the event had also combated unwanted bonfires in west Belfast. He said that August 8 2018 was the first time in 31 years bonfires had not been lit on that date.

He said that the festival was open to representatives from all communities and gave the opportunity for a wide range of voices to be heard.

Many representatives from unionist and loyalist communities attended and took part in various panels, as did representatives from ethnic minority communities and international visitors," Mr Gamble said.

"Feile includes all opinions and all communities and provides a platform for many different views. There is something for everyone at Feile."

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