Aim higher, council tells Gigha stargazers

Gigha's dark skies festival failed in its recent bid for council funding.

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Gigha’s new stargazing festival will miss out on special events grants after officials decided it was too small to meet funding criteria.

At a meeting of Argyll and Bute Council’s policy and resources committee on Thursday June 16 the bid for £1,600 by the Dark Skies Gigha Stargazing Festival was refused in the latest round of the Strategic Events and Festivals (SEF) Fund.

The reason given by officials was that, while it focused on Gigha’s community, only 10 people are expected from outside the island.

Council executive director Kirsty Flanagan said: ‘Dark Skies Gigha Stargazing Festival is a new event and seeks to take advantage of the fact Gigha is uniquely placed as a recognised Dark Sky Discovery site of Milky Way Class.

‘The organisers have stated it is proposed to grow this event over the next few years to attract visitors from across the UK and possibly beyond.

‘However, for the first year, the focus is on the community of Gigha with only a very small number, 10 in total, indicated as coming from outwith the area.

‘The event in its current form cannot therefore be classed as strategic as it will not have the capacity to attract people from outwith the area, nor will it have a focus on national and international visitors, nor generate significant economic benefits for the community.’

Ms Flanagan added that despite the recommendation, it was hoped the stargazing festival was a success and if it grew, it could be considered for future SEF Fund rounds.

She explained the philosophy behind this year’s allocation of events funding:

‘A critical element of the application requirement is that the event or festival be held in Argyll and Bute and be of a strategic nature, ie having the capacity to attract people from outwith the area, with a focus on national and international visitors, and generate significant economic benefits for the community.

‘To illustrate this, the estimated economic impact in the area from the funded events and festivals pre-Covid in round one was circa £7.5m.

‘There is no doubt Covid has had an unprecedented negative impact on the events and festivals sector with no events taking place in Argyll and Bute in 2020-21 and only five out of 10 that were awarded grant funding under round three, taking place in 2021-22, many in a scaled back format.

‘The industry continues to face uncertainty and unpredictability. However, it is hoped the sector is on the road to recovery and events will be able to go ahead this year.’

Oban’s Argyllshire Gathering and Tiree Music Festival will be the biggest beneficiaries and are recommended to receive the maximum £5,000 award.