Grant blow leads to Hawick music festival being axed

Event organisers Paul Templeman and, right, David Finnie.
Event organisers Paul Templeman and, right, David Finnie.

Organisers of the annual Heart of Hawick Music Festival have been forced to call offnext weekend’s event after failing to clinch a £15,000 grant they’d been counting on.

The festival has been staged at the Tower Mill auditorium and other town venues over the last two years, but failure to secure funding from Scottish Borders Council’s localities bid fund and poor ticket sales have resulted in it having to be pulled this year.

One of the event’s organisers, Paul Templeman, chairman of Live Music Hawick, said the festival would have gone ahead if it could have broken even financially but that could not be guaranteed.

The performers, many of whom had travelled over from the US for their gigs, are said to have been understanding about the last-minute decision.

The opening concert at the Tower Mill Cafe next Friday, July 26, was to have featured the Cowboy Way, Issac Sutherland and Crosby Tyler, followed by concerts at the auditorium by Clive Gregson and Rory McLeod, among others, on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Mr Templeman says the aim is to bring the festival back next year despite this year’s setback.

He said: “We’ve had support from the community support grant and the common good fund for the last two years and obviously you can’t keep going back to the same pot.

“Funding is getting harder and harder to get. It’s the A-word – austerity. Everybody has pulled their horns in and it’s tricky to get funding.

“We applied for £15,000 from the localities bid and we weren’t successful in that, and by the time everything was announced, it was getting very, very close to being unviable to put the thing on. We were committed to doing it regardless with our own funds, not that we have a lot of those.

“We thought we could get it done but when we took a look at it, it’s just not possible.

“We have a three-man committee and none of us are wealthy people, and we don’t have the the personal funds to guarantee against loss and that was it, so we had to pull it.

“All the acts have been very understanding. Most of the acts this year were American-based and fortunately they had come over early for another festival, the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival in Inverness.

“This would have been our third consecutive year.

“We will try again, and we have already started funding bids for next year.

“The umbrella organisation is Live Music Hawick, a registered Scottish charity. That organisation still exists. We’re not going to shut the charity down.

“We do this on a shoestring. We don’t need a large pot of money. Five grand can cover the whole thing.

“The maximum you can apply for from the localities bid was £15,000, which is the amount we were advised to apply for, in order to get the event bigger this year.

“There were eight organisations chasing a share of £40,000. It struck me that having charities competing against each other doesn’t seem the ideal way to distribute what is essentially public money.

“The vast majority of the event is free. We do two concerts that are ticketed, and that was the bugbear this year because for the last two years, those concerts have sold out and had that happened this year, we would have been fine.

“If we had broken even, again we would have been okay because it’s not-for-profit. As long as we cover expenses, it is fine, but we were just concerned at ticket sales being very slow and we had nothing to cover the loss.

“The team involved, aside from the volunteers, myself, David Finnie and Duncan Taylor, we didn’t take this decision lightly.

“We were determined, even if we didn’t get funding, to put an event of some description on, but it became increasingly obvious it wasn’t going to happen.

“It’s not the end, but one of the things events like this need is continuity, to keep it in the public consciousness, so next year will be a little bit like starting over again.”