Organisers of the Big Burns Supper announced the postponement of the 2024 festival due to Winter Festival funding being withdrawn.
Despite a 12-year track record and becoming one of the biggest winter festivals in Scotland, attempts to drawn down funding from EventScotland, which is the Scottish Government’s event agency who previously managed the Winter Festival fund were unsuccessful.
Organisers were told their plans for the 2024 fell short of the target in visitor tourism, which is what Event Scotland look for in the National Events programme when scoring bids which the organisation were unable to fulfil due to a hotel room shortage in Dumfries.
The organisation received notification on Thursday 12th October from EventScotland that their request for funding had been unsuccessful.
In October 2022, they were notified that the Winter Festival funding had been withdrawn and that they should bid into the National Events programme.
They tried to draw down on the National Events programme and they received notification on 6thDecember 2022, 37 days before the event was due to take place that their application had been unsuccessful. They continued with their plans to deliver the 2022 Festival at a defect as a result.
They requested a sit down with the Minister of Culture, Christina McKelvie who so far, has failed to respond to the request.
Festival partners have said that their 2024 funding can be rolled over to 2025 and are willing to work with other funders to try and save the festival. The festival remains a Signature event within Dumfries and Galloway Councils Events Strategy and Elected Members will be presented with an option to carry this year’s funding forward to next year at a future meeting of Communities Committee.
Before the pandemic, Big Burns Supper Festival achieved attendances of more than 30,000, boosting the local economy by around £2million per year.
The festival has been running in Dumfries since 2011 has played host to headline artists like KT Tunstall, Deacon Blue, Donovan, Lulu and Bill Bailey as well as providing a platform for contemporary music acts like Skerryvore, Talisk and Tidelines and is the birthplace of Le Haggis, the award-winning cabaret.
Big Burns Supper was hit hard by the pandemic as its model relies on ticket sales rather than public subsidy, and in January 2022 it had to cancel 330 shows as the second wave of Coronavirus swept across Scotland.
The withdrawal of Government funding support during a cost-of-living crisis that puts considerable pressure on household incomes, and what people can spend on events like the Big Burns Supper which is why the organisation made the difficult decision of postponing the event.
The organisation, which is a grass roots community group in Dumfries runs programmes for children and young people in schools in the six months leading up the to the event and the festival ran online events during the pandemic like Janey Godley’s Big Burns Supper which saw more 330,000 people tuning in from around the globe.
Founder of Big Burns Supper, Graham Main said:
“This isn’t a decision we have taken lightly. We feel the people of Dumfries & Galloway deserve more than they are currently being offered and will stand by our decision until local funding is matched nationally.
The Big Burns Supper model is incredibly fragile, relying on strong performing ticket and bar sales on top of local volunteering to make the event possible.
Ordinarily, only 10% of our revenue is through public funding as our Festival Hub model is pretty self-sustaining, which is why it is so vital at this time.
Unfortunately for us, there isn’t likely to be anywhere that level of accommodation in Dumfries for the foreseeable as our hotel stock is in high demand.
We are incredibly grateful to our loyal audience who have supported us over the last 13 years, and we know they will understand why we are doing this.
It is disappointing as there doesn’t appear to have been any assessment on the impact this would have, or a desire to engage with us to try and help us move forward.”
Rachael McDougall, Chair of the Board said:
“The loss of half our public funding compromises the quality of the events we present and places significant strain on our volunteers and on our voluntary capacity which forms the heart of our festival.”
Fans of the festival are being encouraged to write to Christina McKelvie, and a public information event will take place on Tuesday 7th November at 5pm in Dumfries.
More information is available on their website www.bigburnssupper.com/supportus