Hawick Reivers’ Festival’s pleas for event status fall on deaf ears

A decision not to include Hawick Reivers’ Festival in the region’s accredited register of events eligible for more grants has disappointed its organisers and town councillors.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 3:54 pm
Wilton Primary School pupils with teacher Fiona Allinson during last year's festival.

Calls for the annual event to be treated the same as the likes of the Borders Book Festival or Melrose Sevens rugby tournament and be given Scottish Borders Council support as a matter of course have fallen on deaf ears.

The idea of promotion and funding parity for the event, held annually since 2003, was raised in November when Hawick’s common good fund sub-committee was approached for £3,000 to help cover the running costs of next month’s festival, estimated to be around £17,700.

That money was granted, and the sub-committee’s councillors agreed to approach the authority to push for more support.

Leaderdale and Melrose councillor and council convener David Parker threw out that request at last Thursday full council meeting, though, saying there is no money available in the festival funding pot to start including the event.

“There is no money in the budget to provide that funding, therefore that application has to fail,” he said. “My advice would be to look at other sources of funding.”

The annual festival struggles to turn a profit due to offering many of its events for free, forcing organisers to apply for public funding.

However, its most recent result on the council’s economic impact tool found it has potential to pull in almost £250,000 for the local economy.

And it’s for that reason that Hawick Reivers’ Association chairperson Cath Elliott believes it should be given the same treatment as other events the region.

“We could run a festival just in Hawick that would be self-sustaining, but we want it to be opened up Borders-wide,” she said. “By promoting the event and getting financial assistance to market it outwith Hawick, we would be bringing more into the town.

“If you look on the Return to the Ridings website, the likes of Melrose Sevens and the book festival are easy to find, but you have to go quite far down to read anything about us.

“It’s that kind of increased help we were looking for. We didn’t just want automatic funding.”

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer told us: “The request at the full council meeting was summarily rejected by convener David Parker without being considered by councillors.

“This request followed the common good fund meeting where it was made abundantly clear that the festival brought significant economic benefit to the entire Borders and deserved to be considered in a similar vein to the book festival or Melrose Sevens.

“I am hoping this has simply been a procedural error and that it will be equally considered an event eligible for future council funding.”

The festival takes place from March 27 to 29.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor George Turnbull pleaded with Mr Parker, saying: “Hawick Reivers’ Association has proved its worth and the benefit it brings to the town.

“I am asking that this be continued further for discussion. I appreciate the point it’s over the festival funding budget, but it should be reconsidered.”