Cowal Games faces funding axe in row over “discriminatory” dance competition
June 28, 2012
THE Cowal Highland Gathering could be stripped of all funding and help from Argyll and Bute Council if it doesn’t change a “discriminatory” dance competition policy.
Helensburgh councillor Vivien Dance is demanding that the gathering be hammered financially if it continues to exclude dancers from Lomond in its Argyll events.
Currently only youngsters from the ‘Historic County of Argyll’ can take part, while dancers from Lomond – which became part of the district under local government boundary changes in 1996 – must sit out.
A motion by Councillor Dance calling for around £95,000 of council help to be withdrawn if the rule remains in place is set to be voted on at Kilmory today.
She told CowalCourier.com: “I am bitterly disappointed that I have had to go to this extreme.
“I have reached the point where I have to get a decision from the council because I have got nowhere with the committee of the Cowal Highland Gathering.”
Councillor Dance – who is fighting for three young dancers to be included – insists that the Gathering must now recognise the modern day Argyll and Bute boundary.
She added: “The council pays £58,000 every year to the Gathering, plus another £37,000-worth of help ‘in kind’ to allow it to function.
“I do not think it right that Argyll and Bute Council helps to fund an event which so blatantly discriminates against children who live within its boundary.”
Councillor Dance said her hard-hitting motion came about after discussions with representatives of the gathering had come to nothing.
She said: “I thought it would be a simple thing to rectify but when I met with representatives of the Gathering they were very unhelpful.
“I have no issue with the level of funding provided to the event by the council because it represents an excellent economic return for the area from that investment.
“But I now have to look three Lomond youngsters in the eye and say that their council gives more than £90,000 to an event they can’t dance in. It is absolute nonsense.”
Councillor Dance told how she became aware of the situation by speaking to a young dancer from Arrochar at last year’s Gathering.
She said: “I had to check with her dance teacher, and sure enough, the competition was restricted to children of the ‘Historic County of Argyll’.
“I brought this up last September when the former council executive met to discuss the three-year service agreement with the Gathering, but nothing has happened.
“I know that I am too late to change anything for this year but it is vital that the council makes a decision today so that competitions are more inclusive from 2013 onwards.
“I feel I have a duty to get these youngsters into the biggest event in Argyll and Bute. The current policy is discriminatory.”
Councillor Dance added: “The new administration put school dinner blogger Martha Payne at the centre of its decision making when it overturned a ban on her taking pictures of her meals.
“I can only hope that the council puts these three youngsters from the Lomond area at the centre of its decision making today.
“We have a policy of equity within the council but, as things currently stand with the Gathering, some are more equal than others.”
The Gathering declined to comment on the situation ahead of today’s vote.
Event manager Malcolm Barclay said: “The Board have decided that they do not wish to comment on the motion at this time but wish to see the outcome of the meeting first.”
Councillor Dance’s motion – seconded by Councillor Maurice Corry (Lomond North):-
That this Council:
a) Recognises and values the dedication and commitment of the volunteers and management who stage the Cowal Highland Gathering which contributes to the economic viability and sustainability of the local community and is a significant and prestigious cultural event for the whole of the Argyll and Bute area.
b) Is committed to promoting equality and endeavours to ensure that all youngsters who reside in Argyll and Bute have equity of opportunity to achieve their aspirations, ambitions and potential.
c) Agrees that the management of the Cowal Highland Gathering be advised that the current discriminatory practice in the Highland Dancing competition whereby Helensburgh and Lomond dancers are excluded from the Argyllshire Championships ceases from 2013 onwards as a condition of the continuation of all funding, both “in kind” and through the SLA, provided by Argyll and Bute Council.
d) Agrees that the management of the Cowal Highland Gathering be advised that the definition of Argyll and Bute in all of the competitions at the event from 2013 onwards reflects the current boundary of the local authority as a condition of the continuation of council