Clonmel Junction Festival responds to debate on funding at Borough Council meeting

The Board of Directors of Clonmel Junction Festival has responded to a debate at last week’s Clonmel Borough Council meeting when a discussion took place on funding for the festival.

The Board of Directors of Clonmel Junction Festival has responded to a debate at last week’s Clonmel Borough Council meeting when a discussion took place on funding for the festival.

The Board says in a statement -

The Clonmel Junction Festival is a well established and respected arts festival which commands serious reviews and commentary from the national media, attracts many visitors to the town over ten days and does a huge amount of work in the community through its Participation Programme.

Like all the big arts festivals around the country, Clonmel Junction Festival is “subsidy dependent” and like Kilkenny and Galway Arts Festivals, Clonmel Junction Festival sources its funding from both national agencies like The Arts Council and Fáilte Ireland, and from local government. In the current harsh economic climate, Clonmel Junction Festival has worked hard to sustain a high profile and a quality programme and has had its contribution to the community, its artistic programme and its professionalism rewarded through continued national and local funding with only minor cuts.

The local media has, in recent weeks, highlighted the success that Clonmel Junction Festival has had in securing these funds and the debate about the merits of the Festival in the Borough Council Chamber. It is very heartening to know that we have such strong support in the Town Hall. We would however like to take this opportunity to respond to this coverage and in particular to some of the comments that we feel were perhaps unwarranted.

It might surprise some people to learn that Clonmel Junction Festival is a year round operation with a core team of 5; three of these are on payroll from the Festival, one is on a FAS CE scheme and one is on a work placement programme. Over the period of the Festival the company will employ up to 30 people on short-term contracts doing box office, production work and administration. In addition to this professional team, the Festival has a, as Councillor Leahy pointed out, a volunteer and trainee programme engaging over 100 people. Over the years many people have gone on from the volunteer programme to paid positions within the organisation. Others have succeeded in securing employment with the skills and experience acquired while volunteering.

It is important to state that Clonmel Junction Festival is committed, where possible, to sourcing its supplies locally. In 2010 the company’s direct spend in the local economy was over €70,000. This included rent, printing, office supplies, pa hire, accommodation for visiting artists, production supplies and equipment hire.

Councillor Leahy’s suggestion that “a lot of artists fly in and out of the town”, is indeed true of some artists who come to play during the week of the Festival; these however are only a very small percentage of the artists involved in the overall event. Most of the artists performing in the festival stay in Clonmel for five or six days at a time spending time and money in the bars, restaurants, and shops. In 2010 the festival created over 750 bed nights for visiting artists alone.

In addition to the visiting artists the Festival engages many locally based artists, such as Miriam Robinson who is currently engaged by the Festival to work with over 300 children on the annual banners project, and Aisling Egan, who is engaged on a bunting project with local people of all ages in The Common Thread Café.

Councillor Leahy also noted that the owners of some of the disused premises in town have been generous and allowed us to use their empty premises to run our interactive art cafes. For this we are most appreciative, as we are to the many other business and individuals who support the festival with financial donations or other in kind support. It is because of this support and the funding we receive that we are able to run a festival of scale with international acts and national PR. All this ultimately reflects well on Clonmel and its economy.

This year the festival programme will include the first ever production by Cheery Wild, a company set up by Clonmel actress, Aideen Wylde, a performance by Banna Chluain Meala as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations, and new work from the recently established Shellikybookie workshop. There will be Irish artists - both established and emerging - presenting shows and gigs around town, and acts coming from Zimbabwe, Canada, the UK, France, Spain, USA and Iran.

We at the Clonmel Junction Festival are very appreciative of the support we receive from the South Tipperary County Council and the Clonmel Borough Council. As a team we will continue our whole hearted commitment to the event which we believe enriches the community we live in, adds to the perception of Clonmel as a vibrant town, and gives us all a wonderful ten days to go out and enjoy ourselves locally.

So thank you to our supporters and funders. Thank you to Clonmel for helping to make the Festival happen every year. And let us celebrate and enjoy this unique event in the annual Clonmel calendar!

Board of Directors of Clonmel Junction Festival