ONE of Scotland's biggest winter festivals has been cancelled after failing to secure funding from the Scottish Government's event agency.

Organisers of the 2024 Big Burns Supper were told they fell short of the target in visitor tourism, which is what EventScotland looks for in when scoring bids.

The organisation was unable to fulfil these criteria due to a hotel room shortage in Dumfries, and has now postponed the upcoming event until 2025.

The festival has been running in Dumfries since 2011 has played host to headline artists like KT Tunstall, Deacon Blue, Donovan, Lulu and Bill Bailey, as well as providing a platform for contemporary music acts like Skerryvore, Talisk and Tidelines. It is also the birthplace of Le Haggis, the award-winning cabaret.

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Founder of Big Burns Supper, Graham Main said: “This isn’t a decision we have taken lightly. We feel the people of Dumfries & Galloway deserve more than they are currently being offered and will stand by our decision until local funding is matched nationally.

“The Big Burns Supper model is incredibly fragile, relying on strong performing ticket and bar sales on top of local volunteering to make the event possible. Ordinarily, only 10% of our revenue is through public funding as our Festival Hub model is pretty self-sustaining, which is why it is so vital at this time.

“Unfortunately for us, there isn’t likely to be anywhere that level of accommodation in Dumfries for the foreseeable as our hotel stock is in high demand. We are incredibly grateful to our loyal audience who have supported us over the last 13 years, and we know they will understand why we are doing this.

“It is disappointing as there doesn’t appear to have been any assessment on the impact this would have, or a desire to engage with us to try and help us move forward."

The organisation, which is a grassroots community group in Dumfries, also runs programmes for children and young people in schools in the six months leading up the to the annual event.

The festival also ran online events during the pandemic like Janey Godley’s Big Burns Supper which saw more 330,000 people tune in from around the globe.

Despite a 12-year track record, the organisation received notification on Thursday, October 12 that their request for funding had been unsuccessful.

This follows a notification last October when the event was told the Winter Festival funding had been withdrawn and advised to bid in the National Events programme.

They attempted to bid in the National Events programme and received notification in December 2022, 37 days before the event was due to take place, that their application had been unsuccessful. They continued with their plans to deliver the 2022 Festival at a defect as a result.

Organisers have requested a sit down with the minister for culture, Europe and international development, Christina McKelvie.

Festival partners have said their 2024 funding can be rolled over to 2025 and are willing to work with other funders to try and save the Big Burns Supper.

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The festival remains a signature event within Dumfries and Galloway Councils Events Strategy and members will be presented with an option to carry this year’s funding forward to next year at a future meeting of Communities Committee.

Before the pandemic, Big Burns Supper achieved attendances of more than 30,000, boosting the local economy by around £2 million per year.

Big Burns Supper was hit hard by the pandemic as its model relies on ticket sales rather than public subsidy, and in January 2022 it had to cancel 330 shows as the second wave of coronavirus swept across Scotland.