Belfast/Derry Hold Festival 'Meeting Of Minds'

Festival organisers in Belfast and Londonderry have been 'comparing notes' and sharing best practice ahead of the latter's tenure as UK City of Culture.

Members of the Belfast City Council-backed Festivals Forum travelled to the Maiden City last week to meet their counterparts from the Derry/Londonderry City of Culture team and other event organisers in the northwest and border counties.

During the meeting, at The Playhouse theatre, the delegates from the two cities swapped experiences and ideas, and looked at ways in which the cities could co-operate more closely on the organization of major events. The meeting was also addressed by James Waters, former Associate Director of the Edinburgh Festival.

Speaking after the event in the City of Derry (pictured), Michele Devlin, Chair of the Belfast Festivals Forum, commented: "The Festivals Forum is a proactive collective of festival organisers and agencies that are working together to build on the existing strengths of our festivals, and to ensure that they continue to develop in a positive way.

"We have developed a coordinated approach to the planning, programming, promotion and managing of festival activity across Belfast by sharing and presenting ideas, helping to develop event programming, marketing and skills training and coordinating a festival events calendar.
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"It is only right that we share our experiences with our colleagues in Derry, and vice versa, as the city prepares for what will be hugely important year, not just for them but for the whole of Northern Ireland," she said.

The Mayor of Derry, Alderman Maurice Devenney, added: "The opportunity to meet with the Festivals Forum and share experiences in festival organisation has been very useful for us as we continue to plan for our tenure as UK City of Culture.

"The City of Culture team is working to make sure that our preparations for our year of celebration in 2013 are meticulous, so it has been very advantageous to meet and exchange ideas with fellow specialists from the field of cultural programming."

The main purpose of the Belfast Festivals Forum is to bring various festival organisations operating in the Belfast City Council area together for networking, resource and information sharing - with other festival organisations and with resource and support agencies such as the different departments of Belfast City Council and funding agencies.

In 2010–11, Belfast City Council invested £827,000 in cultural festivals in the city, with an additional investment of £1.35m from the Events Unit.

This helped to fund approximately 47 festivals, from small-scale community-focused festivals such as Sandy Row's Queen of the May and Turf Lodge Summer Fest, to city-wide, flagship festivals such as the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's and Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

In 2010-11 festivals funded by Belfast City Council generated audiences of 517,896 and participation of 48,437 and supported 50 full-time jobs, 26 part-time posts, 237 freelance contracts and 775 volunteers.


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