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Council criticised for leaving Kilkeel ‘out on a limb’

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

KILKEEL is being left out on a limb when it comes to council events and festivals.

That was the view of DUP Councillor Glyn Hanna who made the remark as Newry, Mourne and Down District Council rallied to organise Wake the Giant Festival in Warrenpoint and the Newry City of Merchants Festival.

Councillor Glyn Hanna (DUP) contested that Kilkeel was "the capital of The Mournes" as Newcastle was on their northern side. There were no council-led events for the actual Mournes area, he said.

“The council needs to look at Kilkeel as it is left out on a limb," declared Mr Hanna.

He was told by Ms Ward that Newcastle was within the Mournes electoral area but council officials would liaise with Kilkeel Chamber.

Mr Hanna said that the Kilkeel area felt "disengaged" and it was "pretty much the only one that does not have a council event of that type".

Two tenders will be issued by council for the production of this year's Wake the Giant Festival in Warrenpoint and the Newry City of Merchants Festival for £40,000 each.

The Wake the Giant Festival will take place on the weekend of 26 and 27 August with the main programme of events taking place on Saturday. There will be workshops and family-centred events throughout the day and evening.

Sunday will see music acts in Warrenpoint Park with food available "to encourage people to stay in the area and enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend".

It was highlighted at the council's Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism (ERT) Committee meeting in Newry that the "community engagement" of last year's event would continue with groups being urged "to find creative ways to participate".

A new character will be introduced to the Wake the Giant story this year. Last year Finn the Giant fell under the spell of the wicked witch and he could not be awakened despite the sustained clamour of the audience. Finn's mysterious arch enemy will now appear and the question is, can the residents of Warrenpoint, and beyond, defeat her?

The City of Merchants Festival will take place over two days, on 30 September and 1 October. Events will focus on the key roles of commerce and trade and the contribution of the city's waterways to the development of Newry.

The festival will feature theatre, music, dance and community engagement, and will be co-ordinated by the council, Newry BID and Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade.

Warrenpoint Sinn Fein member Michael Ruane proposed that they proceed with the tenders and called for engagement with schools in the festivals.

SDLP member Brian Quinn thought that council staffing levels at festivals "sometimes seems to be overkill".

He said three-quarters of the people being used were "standing at every corner when things are quiet and do not seem to know what they are at, walking around in circles".

ERT director Marie Ward responded by stating that all the staff from the council and external services knew their roles.

“We have health and safety requirements to meet, which have to be in line with 'blue light' service requirements," said Ms Ward.

“It maybe looks like too many people but in the event of something going wrong we need people there."

Declan McAteer (SDLP) suggested that they contact local communities, including the schools, earlier this year about the Wake the Giant Festival and thought that they should do that immediately.

“It's very important that they all get involved," he stated.

Ms Ward said they were "very keen" to get the message out early about the festival and pointed out that they would launch Wake the Giant "much earlier" this year.

Referring to the criticism of the numbers of council staff at events, Sinn Fein Councillor Willie Clarke said they all worked "extremely hard."

He said it may seem like "overkill at times" but should something go wrong it was much better having more security than less.

Mr Clarke recalled that "huge numbers of people" had attended the Festival of Flight in Newcastle and that the well-being of people and children being lost had to be considered.

“You need a lot of staff for those situations," he stated.

Regarding Wake the Giant, Mr Clarke stressed that the storytelling element was important for that particular event as the council had to get "that authentic visitor experience for people".

He told the meeting that "it might seem like a lot of money but it would be good value."

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