Popular youth festival’s future hangs in hands of committee’s agreement

A popular youth festival has been dealt a blow after councillors voted to withdraw funding.

Aberdeen International Youth Festival takes place in the city each August with hundreds of young people putting on dozens of cultural events, including theatre, music and dance.

Aberdeen City Council partially funds the 11-day celebration of arts and had already agreed to contribute to the 2018 festival.

On Thursday, the local authority’s education and children’s services committee voted in favour of pulling the festival’s funding beyond 2018 and of creating a £100,000 fund for local cultural groups to stage events.

Lib Dem Cllr Martin Greig called the step “drastic” and suggested it might cause the festival to fold.

However, the festival’s artistic director Stewart Aitken said: “This is not a final decision, it is a proposal and a final decision won’t happen until February (when the council agrees its 2018/19 budget). That gives us plenty of time to talk about it.”

He added: “I had no idea this was in the offing and it is a conversation I should be having with council leaders rather than in public.”

The committee’s convener, Cllr John Wheeler, said: “We had discussions regarding the youth festival and felt that a better way to celebrate next year being the Year of the Young Person was to set up the fund.

“We’re faced with squeezed resources and have to demonstrate value for money. We felt we would get better youth participation locally by setting up this fund.

“We constantly batter on about empowering young people to make decisions and what better way to allow them the resources to do that?”

He added that there will be “nothing stopping” groups from the festival to apply for this funding.

Vice convener Cllr Lesley Dunbar said: “It should be stressed that a final decision will be made as part of the wider budget setting process of the full Council early in 2018.

“However, we felt it was important to engage at the earliest opportunity with the festival to ensure the committee’s position is communicated and that adequate time is available for alternative funding options and business models to be explored by the festival’s leadership team for future years.”