Remember last year, when Greenwich Council was too poor to fund its share of the Blackheath fireworks, but was happy to dole out cash to a select group of large festivals it could tie in with the Olympics?

Well, it’s happened again, with Greenwich & Docklands International Festival turning up at the town hall with a begging bowl and a demand for £100,000. Instead of being sent away with a flea in its ear, council leader Chris Roberts dished up the cash. Conservative councillor Nigel Fletcher raised the issue yesterday, meeting culture cabinet member John Fahy and council officers to attempt to nail just what was going.

Details are sketchy at present, but I understand the cash handout was only approved last week – after programmes had already been sent out. It starts this Friday with a revival of the Greenwich Fair, a series of outdoor performances around the town centre.

Heaven knows how the festival got into this mess – last year it got an extra £50,000 to see it expand from four days to 10 days. But it’s another example of the Olympic-shaped gun that’s aimed at the council’s head right now – where prestige events simply cannot be allowed to fail, because of the pressure on to get everything perfect for next summer.

Just as with the chaotic restoration of the Cutty Sark, the decision to have a big programme of arts events in the area in the run-up to 2012 (with grandiose claims like “the Greenwich Festivals firmly establishes Greenwich as the place to enjoy culture in the capital”) raises the stakes even more.

Of course, £100,000 may be seen as a small investment in bringing visitors and income into the area – and this is at least as much about the management of the festival as the judgement of the council. But when local parents are forced to take over playgroups because there’s apparently no money left, but cash can be found for a determinedly highbrow arts event, then it’s definitely time for some awkward questions.

9 replies on “‘Cuts-ravaged’ council bails out Greenwich Festival with £100,000”

  1. I quite liked your comment, SoC. It reminded me of the time in the 90s when I walked down Siebert Road in Blackheath, and saw a car explode. That’s what I call entertainment.

  2. The Greenwich Festivals have been running for the last three years. Funding comes from the ringfenced budget through the Olympic Legacy fund. I fully accept that the reports signing off the funding required under the Council constitution was delayed but is a technical matter rather thatn a rushed decision to get funding in place. GDIF is one of a number of organisations involved. Summer Sessions,Dance,Jazz and Comedy willfeature strongly this year as it has in the past. There is something for everyone,full details are on the Council website. The Telegraph on Saturday carried a very strong article about the Festivals which is very encouraging.

  3. Paul is correct that we have not further delayed this grant, as we could have done, after Cllr Fahy offered a full briefing by officers. I was satisfied (though not happy) with the explanation I was given, and will be pursuing it further. However it is important that the Festivals are a success, and we hope they will become self-supporting in future. I would take this opportunity to thank Cllr. Fahy for adopting a constructive approach once I raised the issue with him, and I hope that attitude will continue, despite our disagreements.

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