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Community / Covid funding to help events and festivals come back with a bang

The Shetland Folk Festival is due to return in the coming months. Photo: Lieve Boussauw.

A NEW funding scheme to assist events or festivals which have had to be postponed over the last two years due to the Covid pandemic is set to launch in Shetland.

Councillors approved the scheme at a meeting on Monday, with top-up payments also in line for retailers and guest houses/B&Bs which have been affected by the pandemic.

This is because Shetland Islands Council still has more than £250,000 in ‘discretionary’ Covid-19 support funding to distribute.

The plan is to give extra funding to retail businesses which have been affected since the emergence of the Omicron variant, with around £95,000 budgeted.

More funding will also be on offer to guest house and B&Bs which continue to see a downturn in business due to the pandemic. Around £44,000 is expected to be available.

The scheme to help events or festivals return will offer up grants of £5,000, and around £60,000 is estimated to be up for grabs.

This could include arts/culture, sports and marine events, as well as agricultural shows.

A report to councillors said applicants must be “constituted groups” – such as registered charities or social enterprise companies – and that events must have a track record and be of a reasonable scale.

The proposals were given the go-ahead by the council’s policy and resources committee on Monday.

The funding is cash given out by the Scottish Government to councils to help businesses who may have fallen through the cracks when it comes to Covid-19 support.

Shetland Islands Council was initially allocated £198,000, with an additional £714,000 later provided.

The council operated two phases of the discretionary fund in 2021, which distributed £426,000 to eligible applicants, and provided top-up funding of £147,000 to the hotel sector and £82,000 to taxi drivers.

With some payments still pending a surplus of £257,000 remains.

Shetland Folk Festival committee member Mhari McLeman welcomed news of the events funding.

The festival is due to return this spring in a modified format after being postponed in 2020 and 2021.

“I look forward to reading the finer detail of the proposed business support scheme for events in Shetland,” McLeman said.

“Many organisations like ours have faced ongoing costs for the last couple of years without any ability to generate income – so this scheme has to be regarded as a welcome addition to the local funding landscape, particularly at a time when it may be increasingly difficult to secure business sponsorship in a challenging economic landscape.

“I hope more events will be incentivised to restart over the coming months.”

At Monday’s policy and resources committee meeting there was high praise for the way the council has distributed Covid funding – and the pace in which local businesses have received the support.