'We won't let funding woes spoil a great Christmas on the Hill
Published on: 28 Oct 2016
ORGANISERS of this year's 18th Christmas on the Hill festival say they are determined to make sure the event is as successful as ever despite facing problems over funding.
Cash-strapped South Gloucestershire Council is changing the way community grants are allocated which means there has been no grant this year for Staple Hill's festive extravaganza.
However, fundraising initiatives are in place and traders and businesses are pulling together to ensure the community event on Saturday December 3 is as good as ever.
In previous years the council has donated around £1,800 to Christmas on the Hill however a new scheme for funding community projects has just been launched.
Under the new 'Member Awarded Funding' each councillor is allocated £3,000 for projects in their ward.
However, ward councillors Shirley Potts and Ian Boulton cannot legally allocate any of their money to Christmas on the Hill because they both sit on the board of the Staple Hill Regeneration Partnership, an umbrella organisation of which Christmas on the Hill belongs to.
Both councillors say the new system discriminates against councillors who are active in their communities but they insist Christmas on the Hill will not suffer because of it.
The number one priority has been to provide a Christmas tree in Fountain Square and this has now been ordered following a fundraising drive. The much-loved Salvation Army brass band and pipers have been confirmed and it is expected the grant cut will have little impact on this year's event.
The cost of holding community events has been escalating over recent years. Although many people volunteer to help out at Christmas on the Hill, there are many hidden costs involved in putting on the festival including first aiders, applications for road closures, entertainers and insurance.
Every year organisers of Christmas on the Hill raise their own funds but this has always been supplemented by a grant from the council.
An internet Crowdfunding initiative has been set up as an additional avenue for people to donate money to the event and at the time of going to print £90 had so far been pledged.
The web page says: "Unfortunately the funding we have previously received is no longer available so to make sure the event can take place we need to raise the money ourselves. Whilst we are making every effort to sell programmes, and our local traders have kindly contributed to the day, we are still short of £2,000 which we need to raise by other means."
Cllr Shirley Potts has been one of the driving forces behind Christmas on the Hill.
She said: "The 18th Christmas on the Hill will have the usual grand parade and activities in the streets and in the buildings around the centre. We have donations for the tree and and I'm confident we will have enough money to pay for it.
"Everything is coming together well. A lot of voluntary groups who are taking part have said they will waive their expenses and we are very grateful for that.
"Like with so many organisations, members of the Christmas on the Hill committee are facing many challenges with the reduction of grant funding due to the present financial climate. We always raise money for the festival but the grant has been a good base however we don't have it this year.
"We are extremely grateful for those people who are working to overcome this problem and to raise funds to ensure that Christmas on the Hill 2016 enjoys the same success as previous festivals."
A South Gloucestershire Council spokesman said the authority will continue to fund the Christmas lights along the High Street.
• A full rundown of events and activities during Christmas on the Hill will be covered in December's edition of Downend Voice.