Lack of support blamed as plug pulled on Best of the West

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One of Argyll’s most popular festivals will not happen this year – and the news has been greeted with shock.

Organisers of the Best of the West festival have blamed Argyll and Bute Council and other unnamed ‘local community sources’ for failing to support the music and food extravaganza, held in the shadow of Inveraray Castle.

The local authority, however, claims it was never a primary funder of the event.

First held in 2011, the Best of the West festival was intended to promote the talent and products of Argyll. Organisers claim it has brought in more than £1 million annually to the local economy and 30,000 visitors over eight years.

The Duke and Duchess of Argyll hosted the event and Eleanor, Duchess of Argyll, said: ‘The reality is we receive no government support and Argyll and Bute Council has withdrawn its financial assistance whilst providing significant funding to other similar events.

‘Funding available from some local community sources has also been consistently denied despite the proven local interest and economic benefits.

The Duchess added: ‘The estate, myself and other key people offer their time for free and we have had some wonderfully supportive sponsors, including Event Scotland, but the infrastructure and bands are adding up to more than the festival can make.

‘We are a not-for-profit festival with an aim to promote this amazing part of the world but we cannot do it without outside help.’

This year’s festival had been planned for September 13 to 15

A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Council said: ‘We provide funding where possible for events, however, it should be noted that our contribution to this festival has been low level and on an ad-hoc basis, rather than as a key partner.

‘Given on-going cuts to our budgets, expectations of councils have to be realistic and events have to be commercially sustainable.’

Last year the council provided £2,500 through Business Gateway for stalls at the craft tent and £1,000 towards a drinks reception.

Argyll and the Islands Tourism Co-operative represents tourism business around the region and its chairman Iain Jurgensen said he was ‘saddened’ by the news, adding: ‘Seeking funding to grow and sustain tourism and events is proving ever more challenging in the current financial climate, but we shall continue to support all those showcasing our world-class products and experiences.’

Top chefs have been a big part of the festival

Linda Divers, convener of Inveraray Community Council, said it had come as a huge shock to the town.  She continued: ‘It’s just such a shame for everyone involved. As far as I know, accommodation had already been booked and people looked forward to this event.’

Mid Argyll councillors councillor Dougie Philand and Sandy Taylor expressed disappointment.

‘When Michelin star chefs are involved, buses pick up from Glasgow and the festival is at a world famous castle which could attract tourists back,’ said Mr Philand. ‘l think it is unfair funding was withdrawn, particularly when when three events in the Oban area were chosen.’

Sandy Taylor commented: ‘Had I been aware of the critical funding position, I would have been keen to see what the council could have done to support the event, but this announcement comes after the decision has been made.’