£3,000 grant agreed for 2019 Hawick Reivers’ Festival

This year's Hawick Reivers' Festival.
This year's Hawick Reivers' Festival.

Hawicks Reivers’ Association has been given a £3,000 grant by the town’s common good fund to help it foot the bill for staging next year’s festival.

The festival has grown in popularity since its launch in 2003, attracting hundreds of visitors to Hawick every March.

The annual event struggles to make ends meet because it offers free access to many of its activities, however, so it remains reliant on outside funding to keep going.

Association chairperson Catherine Elliott-Walker told last week’s meeting of the common good fund : “I know that we have come each year to the common good fund for funding, but, as you’ll appreciate, a lot of the events we put on are free.

“The money has assisted us to maintain the fact that a lot of our events are free.

“Last year, we had a successful year, and we also received funding through Event Scotland’s Scottish clan event fund that allowed us to market the event and focus on families, so we’re hoping to build on that success, and we have applied to the clan fund again.

“The funding we get from elsewhere is very much about new developments and targeted at specific things.

“We have to ask the common good fund for funding just to help us maintain the day-to-day aspects of the organisation.”

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer welcomed that application, saying: “I always apply the test of is this for the benefit of the town, and this definitely is.

“Last year, they built on previous years to put on an exceptional event. It was a stylish event, and lots of visitors came.

“This a volunteer group running an event which has such a high professional standard, but somehow they keep having to come to us for money. From my point of view, you deserve everything you get for running an event of this quality. They’re not asking for a lot of money, and I wholly support this.”

Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall echoed Mr McAteer’s sentiments, saying: “I wholeheartedly support this application.

“When Catherine comes along here, you know she’s looked under every stone for money before she comes here.

“The reivers’ festival is great. Imagine Hawick without it now – it’s unthinkable – so let’s get behind it and support it.”

However, Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson voiced concerns about the festival’s finances, pointing out that between 2014 and 2018 it received £19,862 of public money from various sources.

He said: “I’ve got to ask, and I can’t help but wondering, is enough enough?

“I realise it’s a great success in the the town, and you’re making money, but how many years has it been they’ve had funding – 10 years, 12 years?”

Ms Elliot-Walker told him: “We’ve had funding just about every year, although there has been three years where we’ve had enough to not need to apply because we’ve had funding from other sources.

“I totally understand what you’re saying, but if I turn that back, that if we didn’t have common good funding, we’d have to start charging for a lot of things, and that would have quite a detrimental effect on a lot of our families who, at the moment, can come along and enjoy the event.

“We have tickets to the events which raise a certain amount of money. The festival is not making money as such. I think the last two years we’ve maybe made£1,000 over the weekend, which has helped us build up our resources a little so that we can actually hold another festival.

“We’ve been very lucky that we’ve had good weather the last couple of years. If we have a bad year, it would probably wipe out any surplus we have.”

Mr Paterson also accused his fellow councillors of being too generous with public money, saying: “I understand that, but you’ve come to us for funding every year. Is there nothing else you can do? You can’t keep coming here every year and getting funding.

“I understand some people are trying to get votes, but it’s public money were dealing with here – sorry, but it’s got to be said.”

Councillors voted to grant the festival £3,000, with Mr McAteer adding: “I’m not being accused of buying votes.

“The common good fund is public money, but it’s Hawick public money. It’s for Hawick projects and run by Hawick people for the benefit of Hawick. That is the clue in the name of the Hawick common good fund, so I take exception to that remark.”

Next year’s festival, the 15th, will be held from Friday, March 22, to Sunday, March 24. Go to www.hawickreivers.com for details.