Derry council to fund more festivals in 2022 as Christmas markets boost footfall

Derry council to fund more festivals in 2022 as Christmas markets boost footfall

Christmas Markets in Guildhall Square contributed to an uplift in footfall in Derry city centre in December, council members have heard. 

The Christmas Markets in December took on a different format to previous years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the intention to make it easier for traders to recoup some lost earnings by reducing stall fees, aiding in the recovery of the city and its local businesses following the lockdown.

Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Business and Culture committee at their monthly meeting today heard details about the success of the Christmas Markets and plans for markets in the upcoming year.

Over two weekends in December 40 stalls were opened in Guildhall Square which was dressed to create a festive ambiance. Family friendly animation was scheduled, and live music was programmed consisting of local musicians and choirs.

The committee heard that the Walled City Market contributed to an uplift in footfall within the City Centre across the Christmas period, and that feedback from traders revealed they were happy with the programme.

Kevin O’Connor, Council’s Head of Business, then informed members of plans for markets in the city and district in the year ahead, and how it is hoped that following the easing of restrictions and a renewed sense of optimism around the trajectory of the pandemic, more markets can take place this year after a reduced programme in 2020 and 2021.

Members heard of dates planned for the Walled City Markets in Derry, markets across different sites in Strabane, and market opportunities at different events being held in 2022.

Cllr Conor Heaney, committee chair, welcomed the report and said that the markets were a valued and important asset that supported and promoted local businesses across the district.

 The council has also approved an additional £116,000 of funding for the upcoming year to support festival and event programming from organisations within the district following the Covid-19 pandemic.

At a virtual meeting of the committee, members discussed funding for Culture Grant Aid programmes including Cultural Organisations, Heritage Animation, Access Programme for Cultural Organisations, Headline Events, Community Festivals and the Artist & Cultural Practitioner Award for the coming year.

Presenting, Council’s Head of Culture, Aeidin McCarter, explained that there were a number of events that remained unfunded within the existing budget, and it was proposed that through savings accrued by the festival and events team during the pandemic, as well as other anticipated in-year savings, that an additional £116,116 could be allocated to these events that have met the threshold for this year only. Ms McCarter said that the funding would aid the Covid recovery and support the unprecedented number of quality events in the coming year.

Members were told that the proposed Cultural Grant Aid programmes will be drawn from member approved rates based budgets across the Culture department and that a one off allocation will be made to the events fund for this year only.

Welcoming the report, committee chair, Cllr Conor Heaney said providing additional funding for the Culture Grant Aid programme this year will allow local organisations to host top quality events in what will be an important year ahead.

“There are a lot of organisations who have proposed some really exciting events for the year ahead and it’s important that as a Council we support them in that. It’s great news and credit to our Council officers that we have been able to source additional funding for this year in what is a crucial period for a lot of these groups as they look to move forward from a stagnant period of events during the pandemic.”