Calls are going out for the annual Hawick Reivers’ Festival to be treated the same as the Borders Book Festival or the Melrose Sevens rugby tournament and be given council funding as a matter of course.
The festival, held each March, has grown in popularity over the last few years and now attracts more than 2,000 visitors from near and far to the town.
However, it struggles to turn a profit due to offering many of its events for free, forcing its organisers to apply to public bodies for funding.
The festival also raises money via sponsorship and ticket sales but not enough to make ends meet.
Calls for funding parity for the event, held annually since 2003, were prompted by Hawick Reivers’ Association applying to the town’s common good fund sub-committee once again for a grant.
At its latest meeting, held on Tuesday, November 26, association chairperson Catherine Elliott asked the committee for £3,000 to help cover the running costs of next year’s festival, estimated to be around £17,700.
She told members: “We’re back here, year after year, asking for funding, and we’re very conscious of that, but I hope councillors will once again look favourably on us this year.
“I think most people would acknowledge that over the last two to three years, the festival has gained considerable momentum, and we’re trying to maintain that.
“One of the key things for us is that we are looking to provide a lot of the activities free of charge, both for visitors and, most importantly, for the folk of Hawick, who can come and see the re-enactments and everything else.
“I’ve actually, in the application, listed how much we’ve received from the common good fund over the years, and I think it amounts to £15,500, which is roughly £1 a head for the population of Hawick.”
Events deemed to be moneyspinners for the regional economy by Scottish Borders Council are included in its events plan and given direct funding, plus help with marketing and sponsorship.
The reivers’ association applied to the council for a £5,000 handout from its Teviot and Liddesdale community grant scheme in February but was unsuccessful as it had been given the same amount of cash from the same kitty the previous year.
Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer believes that’s unfair, though, saying: “It’s one of those events that brings people from all over the world, and it’s tremendous.
“It’s got lots of potential to grow, and I know Catherine and the team are working to make this an even bigger event and to grow it into something special.
“I believe this should be recorded as an event in the Borders and, as such, funded similarly to the Melrose book festival and the like, which would solve the problem of constantly having to seek money.
“I would support them in pursuing that with the council as that would get them formally recognised as an event.
“In terms of today, obviously I’m hugely supportive of this, and we should fund this.”
Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall added: “It should be recorded as an annual event, but here we go again.
“They’re volunteers, and they’re doing a fantastic job which has stood the test of time. It is nearly 20 years old, so why would we not support it?
“I would urge everybody to get behind this and thank you for what you do.”
Councillors voted unanimously to grant the association £3,000 from the common good fund.
2020’s reivers’ festival, the 18th, runs from Friday, March 27, to Sunday, March 29. For details, go to www.hawickreivers.com