Organisers keen to keep Banjo Festival in Longford

No decision has been made on the long term future of Longford town’s Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival, organisers insisted this week amid fears the event could be axed from next year’s local calendar.

No decision has been made on the long term future of Longford town’s Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival, organisers insisted this week amid fears the event could be axed from next year’s local calendar.

It is believed that the the festival has generated several million euro to the local economy over the past decade and organisers say they are keen to keep the festival in the town.

Kathy Casey, one of the director’s of the popular four day extravaganza, dismissed speculation organisers had already approached other counties with a view to bringing next year’s celebrations elsewhere.

“We are still waiting for all of the funding (for the 2011 festival) to come in,” said Ms Casey. “Once we get that together we will be evaluating things.”

Last week, the Leader revealed how falls in attendances had cast a shadow over the festival, leaving committee members and senior organisers frustrated and scratching for answers.

Ms Casey told of how one venue, designed to host audiences in excess of 600 spectators only managed to attract a crowd of around 150, fuelling fears the festival was no longer striking a chord with locals.

“We want to continue to have it (festival) here but it’s a question of whether Longford can sustain such a festival. It would be a great loss to the county,” she said, which this year celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Ms Casey said last year’s event had been affected by more pressing economic matters, but said this year’s corresponding festival had proved particularly disappointing despite committee members adopting a more prudent fiscal approach.

She played down reports however some of the festival’s more senior organising personnel had already opened talks with other counties interested in securing the rights to next year’s celebrations.

“No,” she replied, when pressed about the speculation. “But there have been counties that have contacted us.”

Questioned as to what counties had been in contact, Ms Casey declined to name specific areas, stating there had been contact throughout the country from interested parties.

Ms Casey said no definitive decision would be made overnight but said all avenues would be explored by organinsers over the coming days.

“We are very grateful to all of our sponsors and we feel that it is important to keep it in Longford,” she added.

Attempts to obtain an estimate from Failte Ireland in terms of the festival’s money making importance to local firms and businesses was unsuccessful at the time of going to press yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon.