Summer festival scrapped

A big wave from little Maeve Marritt as she enjoys the 'Merry Go Round' ride at the recent Waterside Community Links Festival in St. Columb's Park. INLS3013-113KM

A big wave from little Maeve Marritt as she enjoys the 'Merry Go Round' ride at the recent Waterside Community Links Festival in St. Columb's Park. INLS3013-113KM

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The hugely popular Waterside Links Festival has been axed and the future of a decades old community partnership thrown in doubt as a result of a funding shortfall.

The colourful summer fête is set to be scrapped because applications for funding have not been successful thusfar this year.

Meanwhile, the Waterside Area Partnership (WAP), which has been supporting community co-operation and development on the east bank for the past twenty years, is also set to run out of money in around three months.

“It’s a tragedy but we have tried every avenue to find additional funding without success,” said Partnership manager, Drew Thompson.

“The Links Festival began only six years ago and because of its success we had to move from the playing fields at Clooney Park West to St Columb’s Park and we attracted a couple of thousand people,” said Mr Thompson, who is also a Councillor on the Derry and Strabane
Council.

“We have been trying to make plans for activities in the Waterside area but you can’t do that without funding. We have been looking into the possibility of setting up a cultural hub for the Waterside at Ebrington Square.”

WAP has also submitted an expression of interest to Ilex on a potential move to Ebrington but budget constraints have also called this into question as well.

Mr Thompson said a WAP proposal for a cultural hub at the former Ebrington Barracks had been encouraged by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) 2013 Legacy Fund which indicated the potential to develop cultural hubs across the city, including one in the Waterside.

“It now looks like this is all talk and the Waterside will be losing out again,“ said Mr Thompson.

Whilst the scrapping of the Links Festival, which would have taken place in a matter of weeks, is an immediate blow, Mr Thompson warned that the very future of WAP itself is now in doubt as neighbourhood renewal functions are devolved from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to Derry City and Strabane District Council.

DSD Neighbourhood Renewal has funded regeneration in deprived areas of Londonderry for years.

There is, however, some uncertainty now as to how the transfer of these functions to local authorities by the 2016/17 financial year will play out.

Mr Thompson believes one consequence will be a cut in the overall fund available by between 10 and 15 per cent.

“We are in a bit of limbo, the board is saying we’re going to have to prepare to wind up,” said Mr Thompson.

“Now we have twenty years of information. What do you keep? what do you get rid of? The transition is going to be key.”

The Sentinel asked both DSD and DCAL for comment. None was available at the time of going to press.