Festival organisers appeal for help to keep major event growing

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ORGANISERS of the Milton Keynes International Festival have appealed for businesses and the public for financial support to keep the event growing.

Launching what was called a new philanthropy programme to a VIP audience in Campbell Park on Friday (July 20), the event’s backers bigged up the economic importance of the biennial arts programme.

Major backer Simon Mellor, an executive director of Arts Council England, said: “If we can get the partnership of people and businesses going, the benefits can be game-changing for Milton Keynes. We hope you will all be there to help make it grow.”

He claimed that the 90,000 visitors to the festival in 2010 brought in £4.5million to the local economy but, in an era of “tough times” and austerity, the help of the public and corporate sectors was needed to “drive it on.”

Mr Mellor added the arts event was already “changing the way people think about Milton Keynes” and could help it grow “into one of the most successful cities in the country.”

The Arts Council has vowed to match public donations up to a value of £250,000 under its Catalyst Funding Programme for “10 amazing days” of the International Festival in 2014.

Councillor Andrew Geary, leader of Milton Keynes Council, said he was often asked how to justify spending £50,000 of council money on an arts event. The Conservative councillor said: “It doesn’t just bring in 90,000 people, or this year over 100,000 people, and £4.5million in economic value, it brings the community together. All races, colours, creeds and it puts Milton Keynes on an international stage.”

Dr Ann Limb, who chairs the Stables Events Limited Board, governors of the festival, said: “We need your money. We are raising money now for 2014, 2016, 2018. We want to be able to present a bigger and better event.”

Monica Ferguson, the festival director and chief executive of The Stables, said this year’s festival, running until July 29, was even more ambitious than 2010. Backed by the Arts Council England, Milton Keynes Council and a range of corporate supporters, she said it has already become a “landmark in the UK’s cultural calendar.”

IF supporters can text IFMK99 £10 ro 70070 or donate online at www.justgiving.com/ifmkfest. As of Monday evening the fundraising had made £2,265 towards a £10,000 target.