FEARS have been raised over the future viability of Strabane Drama Festival, after the annual event missed out in the latest round of council funding.
Running for the past 37 years, it was revealed this week that Strabane Drama Festival was overlooked for monies within Derry City and Strabane’s Culture Grant Aid.
With the dust still settling on last month’s hugely successful drama festival, committee members are said to be ‘absolutely devastated’ by the news.
“We heard at the beginning of the week that, although we passed the necessary criteria, council had run out of money before they could get to us,” committee member Aodh McCay explained. “The drama festival has been running for the past 37 years, and has received funding from council for 30 of those years.
“It’s extremely disheartening.
“March’s festival was absolutely outstanding for everyone involved with the festival; Covid was still playing its part in 2022, but we saw audiences rocket back in 2023, which only shows how important the festival is to Strabane’s cultural calendar.”
Strabane Drama Festival was one of 18 groups which applied for funding through the Culture Grant Aid. A paper was recently presented to council outlining the criteria and how many groups were successful. The report recommended that, in order to, “ensure a wider spread of the limited budget of £92,400, members agreed to award funding on a pro-rata basis”.
Strabane Drama Festival was one of eleven groups to miss out.
Aodh McCay continued, “All our committee members are volunteers, and they do so because they love drama and the festival. The majority of council funding we get goes towards the use of the Alley so, in a way council are getting it straight back. The only other revenue stream to which the committee has access is a percentage of the box office, which won’t go anywhere hear covering the costs for a full festival.”
Asked if the festival would survive if funding was not found, Mr McCay remained despondent. “To be honest, I don’t think so; it may even sound our death knell.
“If we did run a 2024 festival without funding, it would have to be done on a shoestring budget. We may be forced to up ticket prices in order to pay costs, which could have the adverse effect of keeping audiences away, unable to afford it. I can’t emphasis just how worrying this news is.”
Also commenting this week Cllr Raymond Barr said, “The news that Strabane Drama Festival has not been successful in its application for funding to council will come as a major blow to both the organisers and the public who turn out every year to support this highly acclaimed festival, with many purchasing season tickets.
“Ratepayers in Strabane contribute to the jazz and maritime Festivals in Derry, yet we cannot secure funding for one of Strabane’s few cultural events. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face; we are poor relations. If Strabane loses this event because of lack of funding it would be a travesty.”
The Chronicle asked council for a breakdown of the criteria used, which projects were successful and why Strabane Drama Festival was not higher up on the list of priorities.
A spokesperson said, “We acknowledge the disappointment of the groups, including the Strabane Drama Festival, who didn’t receive funding…
“Council is making every effort to identify additional funding to enable further events to be funded.”