Councillors are being asked to back Portrush Pipe Band Championships to the tune of £22,000

COUNCILLORS are being asked to back a funding package to the tune of £22,000 to ensure a major pipe band event is held in Portrush this summer.

There had been previously been doubts about whether this year’s North West Pipe Band Championships – which attract thousands of people to Portrush – would go ahead.

The event is particularly popular with pipe band enthusiasts from the Ballymena area.

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association Northern Ireland Branch’s (RSPBA NI) website recently said: “Unfortunately, we have not been able to secure a competition in Portrush this year. We hope this competition will be back on the calendar as soon as possible.”

However, efforts have been continuing to save the event and now it has emerged the event is proposed to be held in Portrush at the end of July.

A report prepared for councillors which is due to be tabled at a committee meeting of Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council next Wednesday, is recommending that a total of £22,000 is spent on the event.

The Championships are penciled in for Friday July 31/Saturday August 1.

The Council report says: ‘For many years Portrush has hosted the North West Pipe Band Championships.

‘Usually located at the Recreation Grounds, this event has attracted participants and visitors to the town during the month of August often bringing up to 900 participants and over 3000 spectators.

‘It has maintained its popularity over the years and is an established summer season event for Portrush complementing the range of events that takes place throughout the year.

‘In 2018 Council commissioned an Economic Impact study and the findings from this research highlighted the beneficial impact the event has on the local economy.

‘The event generated a direct economic impact from visitors of £320,000 as a result of the spending by non-local event attendees. Of this £286,000 was in the Portrush area.

‘In 2016 and 2017 the event experienced some disruption as its traditional venue, the Recreation Grounds, was unavailable as a result ongoing work as part of Portrush Environmental Improvement Scheme. The Council agreed to compensate the event organisers, in addition to grant aid awarded through the Tourism Event Funding programme, and an additional good will payment of £10,000 was awarded to RSPBA.’

The Council reports shows that the 2020/21 Tourism Event Funding Programme opened for Stage 1 applications on 4 December 2019. The RSPBANI submitted a Stage 1 application and after assessment Council officials advised that they should progress to a Stage 2 of the Growth Fund application.

The report adds: ‘A Stage 2 application was not submitted’.

The report makes reference to a proposal from Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association Northern Ireland saying that in the first week of March 2020, RSPBANI approached the Director of Leisure and Development and ‘confirmed that an opportunity had arisen to bring the event to Portrush
following a change in their previously agreed programme’.

The Council report continued: ‘Having missed the opportunity to avail of a grant, the RSPBANI has requested that Council allocate £12,000 in addition to the £10,000 goodwill payment.

‘Standard grant funding invoice verification processes would apply.

‘The RSPBANI would like to host the event on the 31 July and 1 August 2020 in Portrush.’

The report made reference to the Summer Events Schedule for Portrush 2020.

It said: ‘In 2019 Portrush hosted a number of high profile events. In addition to long established events such as the North West 200, the North West Pipe Band Championships NI and Airwaves, the town also benefited from the 148th Open and the Live at the Beach Lush event at East Strand.

‘In 2020 a decision was taken not to run Airwaves Portrush, an event which for many was the highlight of the end of summer season activities in the resort. An application from Cloughorr Ltd to run Live at the Beach Portrush in 2020 is currently being considered by Council but has yet to be agreed.

‘If the North West Pipe Band Championships NI does not proceed in 2020, the result would be that Portrush would have a significant reduction in the Summer Event programme.

‘In addition to a reduced visitor experience over the summer months, the town will have a reduction in the economic benefit derived from hosting the event, which in the past has equated to £320,000’.

The recommendation in the report to councillors is: ‘The Leisure and Development Committee is asked to give consideration to the request from the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association NI for £12,000 funding in addition to the £10,000 allocated within the Tourism Recreation Events budget 2020/21. The funding would allow the event to take place on 31 July and 1 August 2020’.

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