Sunday, January 29, 2023
GeneralPlans for Festival of Flight replacement 'being redeveloped'

Plans for Festival of Flight replacement ‘being redeveloped’

NEWCASTLE is set to host a new event this summer in place of the cancelled Festival of Flight, though its theme has yet to be decided.  

Last month, the council rubberstamped its tourism events programme for this financial year, and concerns were instantly raised that the annual aerial extravaganza – which consistently drew large crowds before the pandemic – was not included. 

Mournes councillor Willie Clarke (Sinn Féin) said, after the issue was initially highlighted at a February committee meeting, that there was “now an opportunity to stage a major new event in the town”. 

The Mourne Observer contacted the council last week to ask if it could confirm if a new festival is currently being planned, and, if so, to provide details on its theme and when it will be staged. 

In response, a local authority spokesperson said: “Proposals for a new festival in Newcastle for this summer are currently being developed.  

“More information will be announced in the coming weeks.” Cllr Clarke spoke of his desire for Newcastle to “host a new, large scale festival”, and for it to incorporate and build on the most popular elements of the Festival of Flight.  He stated that it could be “a showcase of the outstanding food and drink of the region and Newcastle, alongside incorporating the arts, culture and music, creating opportunities to showcase the entrepreneurial spirit and pioneering innovation of the district”. 

The Mournes representative also said that council should explore themes such as the narrative of St Donard, Slieve Donard’s association with Irish mythology, and the maritime history of Newcastle. 

The Festival of Flight was last held in 2019, when over 100,000 spectators turned out to watch the Red Arrows take to the skies for an aerobatic display. The event fell foul of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, and to the weather in 2018.  

At March’s council meeting, a number of councillors voiced their disappointment that the event would not be going ahead in 2022. Rowallane DUP councillor Kathryn Owen sought an assurance that the popular crowd-puller would be “put into the events calendar for next year”; however, the council’s deputy chief executive Dorinnia Carville stated that it would be “premature” to determine a programme for 2023/24 ahead of it being fully costed. 

In closed session, the local authority agreed to Cllr Owen’s proposal to work towards putting the Festival of Flight into the events programme for 2023/24, subject to committee approval. 

It also endorsed a proposal by Mournes DUP Glyn Hanna that representatives within the DEA be consulted in relation to any event that may replace it this year before any decision is made. 

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