Keep Festival of Flight flying

2 March 2022

AN appeal has been issued to Newry, Mourne and Down Council to ensure that next year’s international Festival of Flight in Newcastle goes ahead.

The move comes after it was revealed three weeks ago that the highly popular event, which was last held in 2019, would not take place this summer.

The decision to abort the festival was taken during a behind-closed-doors discussion during a meeting of the local authority’s Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee.

Council officials say that due to the challenges in planning such a major festival, securing commitments from participants and with the uncertainty caused to date by the pandemic, organising this year’s event would not be possible.

DUP councillors Glyn Hanna and Kathryn Owen said confirmation that the festival would not take place this summer was “devastating” for local businesses, thousands of people who regularly attend the event and aviation enthusiasts.

They said they were “hugely disappointed” that the event would not go ahead, given its massive popularity and the contribution it makes to the local economy.

“We understand the timeframe between the Northern Ireland Executive lifting the Covid restrictions and the proposed date for the air show was too narrow to arrange this event safely,” the councillors said in a statement.

“The DUP grouping plan to propose at the next full council meeting that the date for next year’s Festival of Flight is firmed in the events diary, ensuring this event is safe for years to come.”

Last week it was confirmed that the council’s decision to cancel the festival was taken without consulting one of its key partners.

The Ulster Aviation Society — which has played a major role since the inaugural festival — has described its disappointment at the cancellation decision.

Regularly attracting in the region of 100,000 people to the resort in the summer, the flagship tourist event has been a major success for over a decade.

The Ulster Aviation Society said it was “disappointed and dismayed” about the cancellation of the air show and the fact that the organisation had not been consulted.

Society chairman Ray Burrows said it was “astonishing” that the event had been “shot down in secret, with no reasonable explanation”.

He said the Society would be pleased to meet with the council to discuss the matter and to help Newcastle demonstrate in a powerful, popular way, how important aviation future and heritage are to Northern Ireland.

Mr Burrows suggested that unless the council’s decision is reversed, or at least re-assessed, he expects there will be tremendous disappointment from the public.

The international festival was cancelled in 2018 because of bad weather and in 2020 and last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic it was also grounded.

A council spokeswoman, who did not respond in time to meet last week’s production deadline, said proposals for the local authority’s 2022-23 tourism events programme have not yet been considered.

She added: “Details of the confirmed events programme will be announced in due course, subject to ratification by full council.”

Via – Down Recorder

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