ORGANISERS of one of Cumbria’s biggest festivals hope a £100,000 grant they’ve received will help restart the culture and arts scene in the county.

Solfest was awarded the grant from the Arts Council, the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the Treasury last week and hopes to spend the money on reviving an industry which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Part of the money will be used to support the restructure of the festival to reduce the numbers for 2021 to ensure social distancing,” explained Sam Johnston, one of the directors of the festival who spearheaded its revival last year.

“It means that when we are spending money on artists, that we don’t have to put that cost onto the tickets.”

Part of the plan will also involve a series of events in the winter called Solfest Winter Festival.

“We are going to work with some local artists and a few big names to hold events at different venues,” continued Sam.

“We will be paying venues, paying artists, paying technicians and supporting some different venues who haven’t had support. We want to support the arts scene and we want to help out local artists and get them working.”

The third part of the funding will be spent on equipment to show the winter events virtually. Sam added the equipment will be bought from local businesses where possible, as has been the case with previous festivals. The same goes for staff on site, the majority hailing from Cumbria, Lancaster and Dumfries and Galloway.

The funding has helped everyone in the festival breath a huge sigh of relief.

“It was a total lifeline for us,” said Sam. “We were aiming to run next year, we have tickets that have rolled over, but we could have been in a position where we would have had to cancel and refund all the tickets, which could have put the whole festival in jeopardy.”

The funding means the festival can offer full cash refunds if next year’s event is cancelled and gives it the flexibility to hire the usual calibre of artist.

He is hopeful Solfest will go ahead next summer, potentially with social distancing. He says successful trials held in Newcastle show it’s possible to run smaller events safely.