When The John Hewitt Society established the Hillsborough Festival of Literature and Ideas in 2018, it was the intention that over the years this Literature and Arts Festival would grow to be an important Northern Ireland literary tourism and heritage destination, attracting visitors to this beautiful village. The attractions of the village combined with its history and the links with HRP Hillsborough Castle and Gardens indicated a great potential for development of the Festival, and for the establishment of Hillsborough as a base for other cultural festivals. The Festivals in 2018 and 2019 contributed to tourist development in the village with 73% of attendees coming from outside the Lisburn and Castlereagh council area, and 75% visiting a local cafe, bar, or restaurant.* They contributed to the aim outlined in the Council’s Develop-Meet Plan of encouraging an events programme for Hillsborough.
It has always been important to The Society that the Festival should be undertaken in partnership with local organisations, including Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council. The two well attended Festivals held have been enthusiastically received by local traders, residents, individuals, and groups including the Hillsborough & District Committee and the Lisburn Writers’ Group. A partnership has also been built with Historic Royal Palaces at Hillsborough Castle. In addition, the Festival has had the support of Rt. Hon. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson M.P.
With the encouragement of Council officers planning for a 2020 Festival was well under way and a programme was in place. Unfortunately the Council has not been so supportive and, since its initial support, far from encouraging this event, has reduced the financial assistance offered to enable the Festival to proceed in both 2019 and 2020. In fact, the level of its support offered for the 2020 Festival is so low that it will be impossible for the event to proceed. With regret, therefore, The John Hewitt Society is left with no alternative but to cancel the Festival which had been planned for the weekend of 24 - 26 April this year.
We are sorry that this action has had to be taken, but the lack of interest by and support from by the Council has left us with no option.
The John Hewitt Society offers opportunities for people from Northern Ireland and beyond to use literature, art and culture to explore issues of difference and identity. The Society actively promotes cross-community and cross-border links, creating events to encourage debate, understanding, tolerance and acceptance of cultural diversity.
* Thrive audience research figures.
The John Hewitt Society is a not-for-profit, charitable status, limited liability company | Charity Reg No NIC102629 Company No NI041294
The John Hewitt Society, The MAC - level 3, 10 Exchange Street West, Belfast, BT1 2NJ | 028 9032 4522 | firstname.lastname@example.org