A Portadown councillor has called on Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to do more with the 13th July celebrations in Scarva to boost the borough’s tourism industry.
Speaking at Council’s monthly meeting on March 28, Councillor Darryn Causby said the local authority should seek to capitalise on what he described as “probably the largest one day event in Europe” as part of its event strategy.
Expressing his frustration at the “painfully slow” progress made by the council in relation to waste collections, the borough’s welcome signs and providing councillors with information as requested, Cllr Causby told the chamber the local authority’s event strategy could be added to the list of things that are taking longer than they should.
“In light of the conversation we have just had about bins, getting information, about the borough’s welcome signs and things being painfully slow, it is clear to me there are a significant number of issues and members appear frustrated about the speed at which things are being done,” he said.
“Quite honestly, I have to say this through you Lord Mayor, to the Chief Executive (Roger Wilson). I am actually quite frustrated sometimes by the responses of officers as more often that not it is ‘we will bring information back’.
“We are here at a full council meeting and I am assuming there are officers on a Zoom call who have answers to some of the questions being raised as to what can we do to get the bins collected this week.
“Similarly, if work has already been done on street signage what work has been done, tell us tonight and lets get the fuller update when it comes to committee.
“The events strategy is what I want to discuss here. We are sometime on now and I understand people in the department have been preoccupied with the city and growth deal and the city of culture bid but we are still, as a council, taking a piecemeal approach to events across this borough.”
He continued by telling the chamber he is frustrated more progress has not been made on the strategy and noted the number of events that are held across the borough including Buskfest, the 7 Hills Blues Fest, the John Hewitt International Summer School and Country Comes to Town.
He also highlighted the Co Down and Co Armagh Twelfth of July demonstrations that take place within the borough and called on the council to capitalise on the borough’s rich range of cultures.
“We also have what is probably the largest one day festival in the entire continent of Europe on the Thirteenth of July at Scarva yet we have not considered how we can use and leverage it to enhance the tourism and events prospect we have across the borough,” he said.
“The input these events were given to our city and culture bid was negligible. There was little mention of any of the Ulster Scots, Orange or Loyal Order Cultures and Irish dancing that exists within the borough.
“I actually thought one of the richest parts of our borough was under represented in this bid and again I would like to see, when an events strategy finally does come to the floor of the chamber, that they would be reflected appropriately.
“For the people I represent, those events are accessible to them, they recognise and engage with them more widely than they might do with the literature festival or something else.
“I am not diminishing the other festivals and accept that it is horses for courses but the people I represent engage with the arts through bands and marching bands, whether it is pipes, drums, accordion or blood and thunder and the loyal orders and I think we need to be seriously representing that in an event strategy going forward as well.”
Accepting the borough has a “very rich and unique” culture, Council’s strategic director of community and growth, Olga Murtagh, told Cllr Causby officers will come back to him in relation to the points he has raised.
“On the points you have raised this evening we will come back to you as I know we have been working with the organisers of the Royal Black event in Scarva on July 13,” said Ms Murtagh.
“We do recognise that the event has developed in recent years and because of COVID-19 this year will probably be the first time in a few years for the event to take place again.
“We know the area is unique in terms of traditions that come from here and we will certainly follow up on the points raised.”