A NEW body is to be set up to help bolster Scotland’s money-spinning festivals and events after it emerged there are now almost 400 of them in existence.
Lobbying the UK and Scottish governments for greater support, sharing costs and expertise, and boosting local businesses will be among the main aims of the new Scottish Events and Festivals Association.
Backers hope to build a proper picture of how much the sector is worth to the economy for the first time, and help raise the profile of existing events and bring long-standing rivals to the table.
Businesses which rely on festivals and events for much of their annual income – such as hotels, venue operators and equipment suppliers – will be encouraged to get involved in the association, which will be a membership body.
Despite ploughing hundreds of millions of pounds into the nation’s economy, there is concern that the industry lacks a proper voice, potential growth is being hampered and public funding for established events is dwindling.
The new body will be completely independent from government agencies such as Creative Scotland and EventScotland, which already support more than 100 different events.
One of the key advisers will be Dr Jane Ali-Knight, director of the festivals, events and tourism institute at Edinburgh Napier University.
She said: “There is nothing like this body in Scotland at the moment. There are bodies like the Scottish Tourism Forum and the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, but events and festivals are sometimes subsumed by the wider tourism industry, which they are very different from.
“There are some very big events coming up in Scotland over the next few years, such as the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup, and there is a feeling within the industry that there needs to be a cohesive voice to speak directly to government.
“One of the big issues is there is no official data for how much the industry is worth or how many jobs it supports, and one of the early targets is to get that kind of research off the ground. There is also a real desire within the industry to have working in festivals and events seen as being a proper job, which it’s still not at the moment.”
An initial manifesto for the association, which has been published online, states: “The tourism and events industry is identified as a core component of the Scottish Government’s economic strategy and a major employer. It is essential that representation is made to ensure the sustainability and growth of the events industry is maintained; Scotland is regarded as a vibrant location, on an international stage for a wide variety of events.
“It is essential that the views of the industry are heard to ensure safe and successful delivery of the events.”
A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said “We are working closely with EventScotland and VisitScotland on promotion and planning for the Year of Creative Scotland this year and recently produced a guide to festivals across Scotland.
“With Scottish Enterprise, we also commissioned a study of the economic impact of the creative sector, examining the arts and creative industries, which is due out in April.”