Sunday, May 26, 2024


TWO local DUP councillors have voiced their disappointment that the Festival of Flight is “not included in Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s schedule of events for 2023/24”. The popular Newcastle aerial extravaganza was last held in 2019, before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Henry Reilly (Mournes) and Alan Lewis (Slieve Croob) had both been hoping that it would make a return this year. In a party statement, Cllr Reilly said that it is “extremely disappointing” that the once annual crowdpuller will not be taking place in the coming months.

“We understand that the council is facing extreme financial pressures; however, given the potential for huge economic benefit and rewards for the local hospitality, it’s unfortunate that this event wasn’t considered and included, even if it was to be scaled down. “The Festival of Flight is one of the district’s flagship events, and this information will be disappointing to local enthusiasts and residents who look forward to its return.” He added that there is the potential for the council to “identify funding partners, such as the Peace Plus Programme, which has a sizeable budget, and has, in the past, praised the Festival of Flight as one of Northern Ireland’s best run events”. Cllr Lewis welcomed the work that council officers have done in “ensuring that there is a full schedule of events across the district”, though added that it is “unfortunate that the Festival of Flight hasn’t featured or been considered”. “The last time this ran, it cost £260,000 in total – obviously, this is a huge flagship event that has the potential for large returns and increased economic benefit,” he said. “Although disappointed, we have secured a commitment that officers will look toward an immediate updated budget estimate for the Festival of Flight to be included in the 2024/25 schedule. “Council will liaise with previous partners and air assets to establish the increased costs associated with staging this event.” The Slieve Croob representative highlighted that the DUP have been contacted by Air Shows NI about the issue, and acknowledged that “many will find this news extremely disappointing”. “We will, however, commit to actively ensuring that the Festival of Flight is kept on the agenda and efforts are made to work toward its return,” he concluded. The councillors’ party colleague, South Down MLA Diane Forsythe, said that the festival is “an iconic event for Newcastle, against the backdrop of the Mournes”. “People travelled from far to enjoy it, and it is extremely disappointing that the council does not see fit to consider its return,” she added.

When contacted for comment, a local authority spokesperson said: “The events programme for the incoming 2023/24 financial year is currently under consideration by council.  “Further information will be released in due course.” Last March, after the Festival of Flight was left out of its 2022 programme, the council was unable to give an assurance that it would return in 2023. This had been sought by then Rowallane DUP councillor Kathryn Owen; however, then deputy chief executive Dorinnia Carville stated that it would be premature to determine the events programme for 2023/24 ahead of it being fully costed. Newcastle hosted the new Eats and Beats Festival in September.

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