Frances folk festival gathers extra funding

The Frances Folk Gathering will receive an extra $10,000 in funding for its 20th anniversary event from Naracoorte Lucindale Council next year.

The council usually provides $5000 in cash and in-kind support, but the gathering committee sought $15,000 for the 2019 event to allow it to book more high profile performers and help meet higher costs.

A request for the extra funds to the July council meeting received only mixed support from councillors, resulting in a motion to ask the organisers to present their case to the next meeting.

Committee chairman Michael McGregor presented the committee’s case at this week’s August meeting, with the support of fellow organiser Lavinia Hannaford.

Mr McGregor explained that the committee had worked hard over the 20-year history of the gathering to retain the elements which made it a truly unique event, including retaining free entry.

He said it was an important whole-of-community event with local businesses benefiting and sporting and community groups able to raise vital funds through their involvement.

He said funding had always been the main challenge, with no entry fees to cover costs and reduced levels of government and commercial support in recent years making it more difficult.

Next year, costs would be even higher as the closure of Naracoorte’s Blue Lake Hire business meant tents and other equipment would have to be hired from further afield.

As well, the organisers want to make the 20th annual event one to remember by inviting more than the usual one paid guest performer, possibly spending up to $6000 on artists.

Mr McGregor took a number of questions after his presentation, mostly relating to how much the gathering benefited the greater Frances community.

He gave some rough figures on how much local businesses and groups might benefit financially each year, and said while they were just a best guess, the amounts would be substantial.

Crs Damien Ross and Scott McLachlan suggested the organisers source some more specific information on those figures to support their case when applying for funding in the future.

Cr Malcolm McLean, who said he attended the gathering most years, suggested moving the event to the town oval to enable organisers to charge an admission fee and recoup some of their costs. “It’s the only free event I know of that exists,” he added.

Mr McGregor said that had been discussed, but there was a reluctance to change the nature of the event and to move the focus away from the town centre where the event was born.

Crs Craig McGuire and Julie Earl said they supported the request, with Cr Earl saying extra council support for this event “doesn’t set an unruly precedent”.

All councillors apart from Cr McLean voted in favour of giving the extra $10,000 as requested.