Broadisland Gathering to be 'scaled down' this year

Billy Thompson leads the main Townland parade to the Fairhill during the 25th Ballycarry Broadisland Gathering in 2017. INLT 37-009-PSB
Billy Thompson leads the main Townland parade to the Fairhill during the 25th Ballycarry Broadisland Gathering in 2017. INLT 37-009-PSB

This year’s Broadisland Gathering celebrations are to be “scaled down” as organisers appeal for more volunteers to get involved.

The annual event, hosted in Ballycarry, is the longest-established Ulster Scots festival in Northern Ireland.

Thanking all those who have supported the event over the years, festival director Dr David Hume said that the local community association was delighted to have taken the Gathering to its 25th anniversary in 2017.

“The Association has discussed the festival at length and members do not feel the group has the capacity required to continue without greater support,” he added.

“For a small community group without any administrative support, the commitment needed to complete applications, keep on top of the paperwork and run a major event is very daunting.

“Most people see the events on the weekend and probably don’t understand the level of commitment that has been given by those involved. Nor do they realise that once the events are over, the paperwork is only beginning."

And while there has been “tremendous” support from some local businesses and the Friends group in recent years, financial challenges have remained.

“Our bank refused an overdraft because as a community group there is no regular monthly income,” Dr Hume added.

“This makes it very difficult to operate as all our costs are incurred and we have to try and cover these on a staggered basis, drawing down part of our grant funding and then paying other bills and then drawing down more.

“If it had not been for the understanding of our funders and our entertainers and suppliers in 2017, we would have had a very difficult situation.

“What it meant in practice was that, while the event happened in September, work was ongoing until January.”

The decision was made to scale down the Broadisland Gathering in 2018 in order to ascertain if there were any other people in the community and wider area willing to become involved.

“Part of the problem is a diminishing group of people,” Dr Hume said.

“If there were more volunteers then the pressure would be lessened, but as things stand now we have decided to scale things down this year.”

Anyone who may be interested in volunteering to help with the event can contact the Friends of Broadisland group on Facebook, or get in touch with one of the members of Ballycarry Community Association.

They can also email David Hume at thonboyhume@gmail.com or phone the group on 07526 795732.