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HCF Blog

Public sector funding support vital to hebcelt success

As a community event, almost entirely managed and produced by voluntary effort, HebCelt is dependent on outside funding, not only to make it work, but also to flourish.

The festival has grown organically, from a small event attracting around 1,000 people, to an international showcase for roots and traditional music that generates enormous economic benefits to Stornoway and the Outer Hebrides in general.

That growth has relied on the goodwill and support of local people, but also the financial assistance of local and national public agencies who recognise the importance of celebrating and nurturing our musical culture and the positive impact of HebCelt on our community.

This year we have again been fortunate to secure the support of Creative Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar who have all contributed to and influenced the festival’s growth.

This investment is critical to the organisation, running and development of the festival. It helps us provide a focus for creative output, for both local and visiting artists; promotes and expands the use of Gaelic in the language’s heartland; and improves awareness of, and confidence in, our island identity.

Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund, partly assisted by the National Lottery, is one such source of key public sector funding. This support is a major building block for the event and it is used across all areas of organisation, such as in bringing the many great artists to the islands and the infrastructure required for staging such a huge festival here in the Hebrides. Creative Scotland also recognise the importance of the economic impact generated by the huge influx of visitors to the area as a direct result of the festival.

The council, which was one of the first public funders to commit to the event, annually extends support through its Arts and Gaelic budgets. It appreciates that, in providing local artists with a platform, the festival is regarded as a key asset in branding the Outer Hebrides as a culturally-rich and vibrant travel destination, as well as a vehicle for promoting the indigenous language.

HebCelt has also helped to establish a positive image of the islands as an attractive place to live and work, which is beneficial in terms of population retention and potential in-migration, in addition to its crucial role in tourism.

HIE has supported HebCelt more or less since its inception and, over the years, has encouraged its evolution into a key cultural event for tourism and creative industries in the Outer Hebrides. HIE encourages creativity around developing aspects of the event, which to date has generated more than £20 million for the islands’ economy, and ongoing assistance helps to safeguard the economic and social impacts that the festival brings to the region.

The 2016 festival was the most successful in the event’s 21-year history. An independent visitor survey and economic impact report showed it directly generated £1,405,472 into the local economy, with an indirect impact of £2,206,591, and it helped safeguard 41 tourism-related jobs.

This continuing public sector support is crucial to the survival of HebCelt and will help us try to emulate that achievement this year in musical, economic and tourism terms.