City vows to save Leith Festival

The Leith Festival attracts thousands of people
The Leith Festival attracts thousands of people
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City chiefs are to hold crisis talks with organisers of the Leith Festival about using public money to save it from collapse.

It emerged last week that the popular ten-day festival, which has been running for eight years, is facing a fight for survival because of a cash crisis.

City council officials are to meet with organisers to discuss whether money can be found to save the festival’s main attractions, such as the Leith Festival Pageant and Gala Day.

In a normal year, the festival costs upwards of £50,000 to organise and stage, but it is thought that £20,000 would be enough to allow for a scaled-back programme to go ahead next year.

Councillor Steve Cardownie, the city’s festivals and events champion, said: “Leith Festival is a hugely successful festival and I’ve been down to events over the years and the festival itself is a huge draw.

“We have to look at it and I will ask officials to meet with the organisers to see what can be done.

“Budgets are tight but this is the biggest community festival in the UK so it would be a real shame if its cash problems would signal its demise.

“It may not be in the same form but we will work on ensuring its survival.”

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

Organisers are also considering a public fundraising drive and will meet with private firms, including convenience chain Scotmid, which has previously supported the festival, to try to raise funds.

Councillor Gordon Munro, chair of the Leith Festival board, welcomed Cllr Cardownie’s intervention.

He said: “I think it will take somebody in a position such as the festivals and events champion or the culture and leisure convener Deidre Brock to get the council to look at how it can provide support and Leith Festival has not had that support before, across regimes.

“If Cllr Cardownie could help unlock a similar source of funding as there is for other festivals then that would be very welcome.”

The festival was largely funded by Forth Ports until three years ago and private sponsors have supported the event in recent years, including Forth Energy, the company behind controversial plans for a biomass plant in Leith. This year’s event was also supported by £5580 of lottery funding and £1560 from the Scottish Community Foundation.

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

Cllr Munro believes that public fundraising could be successful.

He said: “Leith Festival’s problems would be resolved if every man, woman and child in Leith gave £1 each.”