The Story So Far
It’s been a long summer for Festivals and Events organisers in Morecambe and not in a good way. Plans proposed by the Festivals and Events sub committee of Morecambe Town Council earlier in the year threatened the continued funding of many Morecambe events and festivals. These plans were later dismissed in favour of a plan to support festivals and events run locally, with a view to helping these events grow and become self sustaining entertainment enterprises.
What was recognised by events organisers and many councillors was that the current way of doing things no longer worked. A better process of funding applications and deciding on what festivals and events get funded needed to be put into place.
This new process was debated in council and agreed in principle. A new Working Group was established for the Festivals and Events Organisers to come together with elements of the town council and develop a working process that would allow fair access to funding. The overriding idea was that the festivals and events funding process would in part handed over to the organisers themselves in some capacity. Unfortunately for some organisers not to mention Morecambe, this process has already taken too long to finalise and events have already been cancelled for the 2015 festival season.
This October Extraordinary Meeting of the Morecambe Town Council was held to formally finalise plans for the new funding application process. Town Clerk David Croxall delivered a report detailing the working process proposal based on the recommendations of the Working Group Chair Councillor Darren Clifford. A new air of cooperation between the various groups in the council prevailed with the proposed process moving through debate quickly and with little or no change.
The issue of ring fencing potions of the available funding for specific groups or types of events was put forward by Councillor Metcalf. However this proposal was defeated in a vote 2 to 13 as the majority felt a larger main fund would be more practical and offer better funding possibilities.
One of the other few points of contention was the timetable for the new process. Due the extended period of time the Town Council has taken to come to agree on moving forward with a new funding application process there is a short amount of time left for organisers to apply. Council budgets need to be finalised shortly. Some councillors brought up the question of new and previously unfunded festivals not being ready to apply. Councillor Clifford pointed out that if people were planning a festival or event for 2015 then they, like the regular organisers of Morecambe should be well on the way to being organised and the application process should not be a struggle for them. He also noted that the Festivals and Events Working Group of Morecambe will be helping people with their applications.
A caveat was proposed that new applicants that provide a promising but perhaps incomplete applications could be looked at again in the near future for possible funding. Extra funding or unspent funding might be found to fund these events. This addition to the process found no objection.
The majority of the council called for the immediate support of the proposed process to move forward and fund festivals and events for the 2015 as soon as possible. Many councillors noted that an extra week was not going to make much if any difference at this point – Organisers are going to be ready to apply and run their festivals or not.
Funding Application Panel
One of the major points of debate within the new Festivals and Events Working Group, made up of organisers in Morecambe, was the decision making process on applications. Who should decided who gets funded. Many called for heavy organiser involvement, many also proposed a balanced approach with impartial panel members being invited. The Town Council tonight discussed and debated who should sit of the decision making panel in addition to a councillor from each of the political parties sitting on Morecambe Town Council. As personal details of proposed panel members were to be openly discussed, this part of the meeting was held in closed session – meaning the public and press (represented by The Bay Radio and The Visitor) we asked to leave for this part.
Upon returning to the council chamber it was revealed that the council would invite the following to take part in the decision making process:
- Vicky Lofthouse – Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce Manager
- Jim Catterall – Bay Tourism
- A Representative of Marketing Lancashire
- A Student studying Tourism from Lancaster and Morecambe College (to be recommended by a course tutor) – To ensure that young people are represented.
And there we have it, after a difficult summer of proposals and counter proposals the 2015 Morecambe Festival Session can finally get funded.
Many representatives of festivals and events were in attendance at the meeting and had been following the proceedings carefully. Many pointed out that the process is not a huge change from the old system. The decisions of this new funding applications panel will still apparently be subject to The Festivals and Events Sub Committee.
The victory here for many in Morecambe is that the process is becoming more open, transparent and accessible. Members of the Working Group have already said that this process is not the end of the story. With more time and planning a process can be developed much earlier for applications for the 2016 festivals and events season.
What Happens Next
The application process will open very shorty. The Morecambe Carnival will be promoting this as much as possible as will The Bay Radio, who have been following and reporting on this ongoing funding situation since the original story first broke.
Listen out for details on The Bay, in The Visitor on the Morecambe Carnival website and Facebook Page and the Morecambe Town Council website for details on applying for funding for your festival or event.
As Councillor Clifford pointed out during the meeting – This is when we secure Morecambe’s future.