Funding woes force festivals to pull the plug

EXPERTS have warned Scotland is unlikely to see any new festivals launched for the foreseeable future, as it emerged a string of top events have been axed.

Connect, Outsider, Big in Falkirk, Live at Loch Lomond and EH1 are among festivals shelved in the wake of poor ticket sales and funding problems.

Their demise has come in the wake of concerns that the calendar of major events was becoming too cluttered, particularly in summer.

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The economic downturn, infrastructure problems caused by bad weather and squeezes in public spending have been blamed for the cancellation of festivals masterminded by some of Scotland's leading event organisers.

Promoters believe there were not enough audiences for the growing number of events staged in recent years and that those most likely to survive are long-standing festivals which have cultivated a loyal audience.

Those going ahead include T in the Park at Kinross, Wickerman in Dumfries and Galloway, Belladrum and Rock Ness, both near Inverness, and Fife's Big Tent Festival.

Connect, a boutique festival held in the grounds of Inverary Castle, had been due to return this year after it was cancelled last spring, despite having secured 80,000 in public funds.

Franz Ferdinand, Beastie Boys and Primal Scream were to have been among last year's headliners, but it failed to sell out and ticket-holders complained that the location was unsuitable as a major venue. The event will now not go ahead this year.

Organisers of Big in Falkirk, the "street arts" festival, yesterday admitted defeat in their efforts to stage it this year, after losing all of the event's council funding.

Live at Loch Lomond had been cancelled to allow organisers to resolve a series of problems with the site, but its promoters admitted yesterday that it would not be staged again, citing the costs involved in using the location.

The same firm was behind the new EH1 dance music festival at Ingliston, Edinburgh, last summer, but it will also not be returning this year.

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Outsider, an "eco-friendly" festival launched in 2007 at Rothiemurcus, near Aviemore, had been due to be headlined by Sharleen Spiteri and Teenage Fanclub, was scrapped at just a weeks' notice last year after only half the tickets were sold.

It had been awarded 100,000 of public money.

Other events axed in recent years include Indian Summer, an indie music festival in Glasgow, the Highland Festival, and the Isle of Skye Music Festival.

Geoff Ellis, chief executive of DF Concerts, promoters of T in the Park and Connect, said: "Connect isn't dead in the water, but it won't be on this year, mainly because of the current economic climate.

"We perhaps overdid it a bit spending on bands when we launched and we didn't get the numbers we were looking for. It was also a very expensive event because we had to hire farming sites for the camping and had two years of bad weather.

"The calendar was also very over-crowded with events at the time.

"I think it is going to be hard for people to come in and take the risk of running a new event. There were only a few major festivals in Britain when T in the Park started, but there are festivals on every weekend now."

Pete Irvine, creator of Outsider, said: "This isn't the time to launch festivals which are trying to do something new and innovative. The ones that survive are going to be mainly consolidating an existing audience base."

Neil Butler, director of Big in Falkirk, said: "We had enjoyed fantastic support from the local council over the years.

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"The council's decision was purely down to its financial situation. It's going to be a very difficult time in the next two to three years."