Delay to Argyll and Bute events funding

Mid Argyll Pipe Band enters the Cowal Games competition arena in 2017
Mid Argyll Pipe Band at a past Cowal Highland Gathering, one of the events which awaits a funding decision for 2021.

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Uncertainty over whether events in Argyll and Bute will be held in 2021 has persuaded councillors to delay the release of support funding.

A decision is usually made every spring by the council on how to distribute its strategic events and festivals fund (SEF), which supports cultural events across the area.

A report has, however, recommended that the decision should be delayed until May, as events have been practically wiped out in Argyll and Bute in the past year due to a ban on mass gatherings during the pandemic.

Eight out of nine events to receive funding in 2020 were cancelled. The other, the Tiree Wave Classic surfing competition, was rescheduled to March 2021 but it, too, has recently been postponed again until October.

Three events – the Mull of Kintyre Music Festival, Cowal Highland Gathering and the Mull Rally – required and received some funding in 2020 despite the events not having physically taken place, though some were held online.

The council’s policy and resources committee decided to delay a decision on the latest round of funding at its virtual meeting on February 18.

Organisers of 10 events are waiting to hear about the fate of their applications.

Executive director Kirsty Flanagan said: ‘At the Business Continuity Committee meeting on June 11, 2020, members agreed that a grant pot of £90,000 be made available for SEF over financial year 2021/22.

‘The call for applications was issued on October 22, 2020 and closed on December 7, and the applications, of which there are 10, were due to be consideration by the policy and resources committee at the February meeting.

‘At the time of putting out the call for SEF round three applications in October 2020 we were obviously not facing a national lockdown and things were looking slightly more positive.

‘This position has changed very quickly, however, and we are now facing a much more serious position than in March of last year.

‘Given the uncertainty and unpredictability it would seem pragmatic to delay and review the position over the next two or three months rather than agree to award grants for strategic events and festivals that will not be able to go ahead as planned.

‘This will allow both the council and the event organisations themselves to hopefully be clearer as to the feasibility and viability of these events taking place in 2021.’

Ms Flanagan concluded: ‘Unfortunately the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is still unknown and the status of strategic events and festivals will continue to change.

‘The loss of any event from the local economy will be significant and, as such, in an effort to support the economic recovery it is important that funding support is available to support strategic events when they are in a position to go ahead.’