Northern Ireland

Festival organisers slam 'staggering' decision to scrap tourism funding as they raise ticket prices

The Stendhal Festival in Co Derry is one of the largest music of its kind in the north.
The Stendhal Festival in Co Derry is one of the largest music of its kind in the north. The Stendhal Festival in Co Derry is one of the largest music of its kind in the north.

Organisers of one of the north's biggest music festivals have hit out at the "staggering" last-minute loss of funding that has prompted them to raise ticket prices weeks before welcoming revellers.

The Stendhal Festival in Co Derry is among events that benefit from a sponsorship scheme by Tourism NI that has been scrapped for this financial year as a result of budgetary pressures.

Tourism NI has said its allocation of funds from the Department for the Economy is "significantly lower" than in previous years, forcing it to make "difficult decisions" including axing its National Tourism Events Sponsorship Scheme for 2023/24.

Organisers for the Stendhal Festival, which is taking place next month at Ballymully Cottage Farm in Limavady, say the news that they will not be receiving funding from the scheme has left them with no alternative but to raise camping ticket prices.

The festival is being held from July 6 - 8, and will feature headline acts including reggae legends The Wailers, alongside other artists including  Bell X1, Newtown Falkner and Turin Brakes.

In a statement posted to social media, a festival director Ross Parkhill said they received a letter outlining the funding issue on Friday.

"For us, to receive this letter, five weeks before our event, with no consultation whatsoever, is staggering," they said, adding that following deliberations "we have regrettably been forced to take the decision that weekend camping ticket prices will need to rise further than we previously anticipated from Monday, 12th June".

"We didn’t take this decision lightly as we take immense pride in the value of our ticket price comparable to other (camping and non-camping) festivals, but we have no alternative to safeguard the future of the festival," the spokesperson said.

Three night camping tickets will be raised by almost £30, while day ticket prices and prices for additional children will remain unchanged.

Weekend car parking prices are also to be raised.

Mr Parkhill warned it was "only a matter of time before a number of events in this country are gone forever because they are simply

unaffordable for organisers to put on, particularly independent ones such as us".

A statement last week from Tourism NI said it was "seeking to minimise the impact of the cuts on the wider tourism industry".

They said the events sponsorship scheme was "always heavily oversubscribed".

"This has unfortunately resulted in us having to take some difficult decisions as to how we spend our budgets this year," the spokesperson said.

"We have therefore had to take the regrettable decision not to operate the National Tourism Events Sponsorship Scheme in 2023/24.”

They added the body was "keen to identify other ways in which Tourism NI may be able to support events in the year ahead and will be working closely with event providers".