Highland Games committee calls it a day

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MOUNTING costs and increasing bureaucracy have finally ended Montrose Highland Games after more than 30 years as a fixture in the town’s calendar.

The summer event suffered two years ago when it was cancelled after torrential rain saturated the East Links games field. The site was waterlogged and organisers decided to pull the plug at the 11th hour after it became obvious that spectators were unlikely to turn out.

The committee suffered a financial loss as a result, which prompted the cancellation of last year’s games. With the weather again taking its toll on outdoor events across Angus, chairwoman Robina Addison said at the time it would be “too much of a gamble” to continue and possibly have to cancel at the last minute.

Mrs Addison this week confirmed that at the recent committee meeting, there was “a lack of enthusiasm” for the event to continue.

She said: “It’s a sign of the times really, and it was down to red tape and finance, which was a big factor. We were well short of what would have been needed and, in these days, getting sponsorship isn’t easy.

“We would have needed another £10,000 and we couldn’t have done it without putting ourselves in debt, so it was probably the most sensible decision. It’s a big ask to try to find that amount of money.

“Although we have been holding fund-raisers, we’re depending on the public and while the Hogmanay Ceilidh is always well supported, other things aren’t. We even put out a plea for new members but got no replies, which is sad in a town like Montrose. There are also so many other groups trying to raise money.”

Mrs Addison also said that costs have mounted up due to changes in licensing, assessments and insurance arrangements while cash flow has also shifted, meaning that start-up costs have also increased.

She continued: “Everything now has to be paid up front, such as for the marquees and the toilets, because over the last couple of years people have been stung by cancellations. Equally, stallholders don’t want to pay up front for the same reason and we depend on that money coming in.

“There are also so many insurances and we have to take care of that ourselves. We need different insurance for different things, from putting the Highland Games banner up across the High Street, to putting out cones on the road, and it all mounts up. No matter which way you breathe, it costs you money.

“The council does do its best to help, but it’s still a lot for a small group and the committee felt they didn’t want to take the risk.”

While the committee has gone in to abeyance, there have been no resignations and Mrs Addison is hopeful that the event may return in the future, although she acknowledged that could be difficult after several years’ absence.

She added: “I hope it can be resurrected, but it would need more people and younger people.”