The Head of Culture presented the above report, previously circulated to Members. She stated that the purpose of the report was to update Members on planning and programme development for the Halloween Festival 2019 and to seek approval to move forward with procurement processes required.
Councillor McMahon referred to the proposed public consultation regarding moving the main Halloween celebrations in Strabane to Saturday 26 October 2019. He stated that a very thorough and comprehensive consultation was needed as the wishes of business groups including Strabane Town Forum would not necessarily be the wishes of residents in the area. He proposed that it was necessary that every household in the Strabane area would be given full information on the proposed change of date. He enquired why the date change was necessary and that the feedback from resident’s feedback would assist in the decision on whether or not to change the date.
Continuing, Councillor McMahon stated that over the years Halloween in Strabane had been synonymous with anti-social behaviour in terms of bonfires being lit by young people in the area. He stated that a lot of good work had been carried out in Strabane in recent years to eradicate those bonfires by putting resources in place for early intervention. He expressed concern that if the Halloween events took place on the Saturday 26 October, a void would be created from then until October 31 that could become a vehicle for anti-social behaviour. He stated that extra resources would be needed during that time and referred to the work carried out with the AYE Project who had engaged with the young people over the Halloween period.
In response, the Head of Culture stated that officers would be consulting with Members from the Strabane area on how the public consultation would be carried out. She agreed that a comprehensive consultation was needed which would reach all citizens throughout the Strabane area. She referred to the recommendation in the report and stated that Members are asked to pre-approve the date change subject to the consultation process. She stated that the recommendation was timebound as the necessary arrangements had to be put in place at an early stage. She stated that in terms of benefits, Halloween in the City was of such a scale it was now of an international standard. She explained that it was physically impossible for those acts booked to perform in the City on 31 October, to perform simultaneously in Strabane. She stated that Council could gain extra benefit from the participating acts by also having them perform in Strabane at no extra cost but not on the same scheduled dates for Derry. She advised Members that it would benefit the businesses in Strabane Town to be able to have those acts perform in Strabane prior to the 31 October, adding that this would enable Strabane to experience some of the same quality programme of events as Derry.
In response to a query by Councillor McMahon regarding anti-social behaviour, the Head of Culture stated that officers would work with colleagues from Health and Community Directorate to ensure that interventions would be in place to ensure there was no gap. She asked that Members endorse the recommendation regarding the change of date to enable officers to work on any associated issues and for arrangements to be put in place to mitigate issues such as anti-social behaviour.
Councillor McMahon proposed, Seconded by Alderman Hussey and Members unanimously agreed:
That Council ensure that a thorough consultation process is carried out in the Strabane area and people are given the full information regarding the public consultation to change the date of the Halloween celebrations in Strabane town to Saturday 26 October 2019.
Alderman Hussey welcomed the recognition given to the Castlederg area by commencing the Halloween celebrations with the Castlederg Apple Fair. He concurred with the sentiments expressed by Councillor McMahon and stressed the importance of community engagement throughout the consultation process. He stated that the anticipated void that may be created, particularly with the half-term school holidays had also be considered. He referred to the City of Derry Jazz festival which regularly utilised venues throughout the entire city and suggested that the jazz programme be used as a template for the Strabane area.
Councillor Mellon suggested that Council use the community infrastructures already in place to mitigate any issues regarding anti-social behaviour. She also suggested that anti-social behaviour was not exclusive to young people.
Recommended that Members (i) approve the financial and procurement arrangements as set out above and note the contents of the report and; (ii) subject to the favourable outcome of a wider public consultation process in Strabane that pre approval be given by Members to change the date in Strabane for the main celebrations to Saturday 26 October 2019 and: (iii) that full information regarding the public consultation process is made available to every household in the Strabane area.