Festival appeals for survival help as funding axed

The Pageant and Gala Day has been running for more than 100 years
The Pageant and Gala Day has been running for more than 100 years
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THE future of one of the Capital’s most popular festivals is hanging in the balance after it lost thousands of pounds of funding.

The popular ten-day Leith Festival, which has been running for eight years, will not take place next year and is in danger of closing its doors for good.

However, organisers hope that they can still hold the 2012 Leith Festival Pageant and Gala Day – the highlight of the festival – which has been running for more than 100 years.

Rowan Campbell, board member of the Leith Festival Association, said: “Leith Festival is fighting to survive. Having lost several income streams from local authority and charitable body funders in recent months, the festival is now in danger of closing its doors for good.

“Due to limited finances, the volunteer board have been forced to conclude that the ten-day community arts festival will have to be put on hold for 2012. We still hope to be able to put on the Leith Festival Gala Day in June 2012, however it is unlikely that the Gala Day will go ahead without an injection of ideas, finance and local support.

“In these difficult times, perhaps more than ever, we need to emulate Leith’s motto and ‘persevere’.”

Leith councillor Gordon Munro, chair of the event, said it would be a “real blow” if the community arts festival didn’t survive.

He added: “We faced a real issue when Forth Ports, which was the main sponsor, withdrew their funding two or three years ago, which was a five-figure sum. In my view, that was the beginning of the difficulties we have faced over the last few years.

“Leith Festival has always punched above its weight and I think a lot of people did not realise how fragile we were – and are – as an organisation.”

The June festival costs between £50,000 and £75,000 to run.

In addition to Forth Ports, the festival no longer receives money from previous funders the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership, Big Lottery Fund and Awards for All.

Organisers were recently forced to scrap the festival manager position due to a lack of funds, with the event now solely being run by a board of 12 volunteers.

The festival, which attracts between 15,000 and 20,000 people every year, features more than 380 events in more than 50 venues across Leith.

A public meeting will take place alongside the festival’s AGM at the Leith Community Centre on December 7 at 7.30pm.

Organisers will meet representatives from Scotmid, which has previously provided financial support to the festival, before the AGM in the hope that further funding can be secured.

Leith Central Community Council secretary Roland Reid said: “It’s very disappointing because the festival adds to Leith’s vibrancy and it is the high point of the year for the community.”