Belfast Telegraph

Lack of volunteers puts an end to Northern Ireland's longest-running Ulster-Scots fest

By Mark Bain

The organisers of an Ulster-Scots festival in Co Antrim have announced that the event will no longer be staged.

The Broadisland Gathering, which marked its 25th anniversary in Ballycarry last year, has been abandoned due to a number of factors.

Spokesman for the festival organisers David Hume said: "The group accepted in 2017 that capacity to deliver the festival was proving difficult and sought to find ways around this problem.

"Earlier this year Ballycarry and District Community Association met with the chief executive and other officials from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to suggest a partnership between the council and the group in order to ensure that Northern Ireland's longest established Ulster-Scots festival would continue.

"Unfortunately, such a partnership has not proved possible.

"The failure of a major grant application this year also added pressure to those trying to maintain the festival in 2018."

Mr Hume added: "The Broadisland Gathering, having met many challenges over the years, is sadly a victim of modern trends."

Former DUP Culture Minister Nelson McCausland said he was disappointed the festival was unable to continue.

"This has been a very enjoyable event over the past 25 years," he said.

"It's been a credit to the volunteer organisers who have undertaken a huge commitment every year.

"I have always enjoyed it and it will be missed from the calendar."

Local UUP councillor Mark McKinty said that having grown up with the festival all his life and having served as treasurer, it was a big blow for the village.

"As long as I can remember the Broadisland Gathering has been a fixture in my life in the first week of September and it's very disappointing it's coming to an end," he added.

"It was becoming difficult to maintain the festival due to a lack of manpower.

"People maybe thought the event just appeared every year, but there was a lot of work in the background to make things happen. A lack of volunteers meant it became impossible to continue.

"We had considered ending the festival a couple of years ago, but the fact that the 25th anniversary was approaching seemed to galvanise people and we were able to continue, but those volunteers have backed away again.

"There is a possibility we will look at something smaller in years ahead to mark the first week of September and keep it going in some form, but there would need to be a willingness from the community to get involved."

Chief executive of the Ulster-Scots Agency Ian Crozier said: "The reality is that it's difficult for any festival to find the resources to keep going.

"As an agency we were already under the impression that last year was to be the final year in Ballycarry, and while that's disappointing, it's understandable given the shortage of resources, particularly manpower.

"We have put a lot of resources the way of Ballycarry with regards to the Ulster-Scots heritage and hope to be able to continue that in the future."

Belfast Telegraph

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