Residents' price freeze, a 'soft launch' and new food provider for 2022 Enchanted Winter Gardens

ANTRIM and Newtownabbey Council looks set to turn down a £7200 cash injection from Tourism NI for the Enchanted Winter Gardens - but could accept a smaller amount from a food vendor to provide refreshments at the event.

It was agreed at the April council meeting to deliver of the Enchanted Winter Garden event in 2022 at a cost of £46,000.

It was also agreed to apply admission fees of £7.50 per adult, £5 per child, £22 per family of four and to explore methods to enable Borough residents to avail of a ‘ticket price freeze’.

In addition, it was agreed to deliver a ‘soft opening’ of the event free of charge to selected residents in partnership with the community and voluntary sector.

At the July meeting, members are expected to hear that year’s event is expected to cover 18 evenings from Saturday 26 November to Tuesday 20 December at 4pm to 9.30pm.

A report due before councillors said that the launch of tickets for the 2022 event is planned for Thursday 1 September.

Borough residents will be able to avail of the 2021 tickets fees of £6 per adult, £4 per child and £18 per family of four by using their postcode when booking tickets.

The ‘soft opening’ event of Enchanted Winter Garden is planned for Friday 25 November.

The capacity of this event will be kept at 5000, lower than the normal capacity and all additional attractions will be free of charge.

It is proposed to identify recipients of the invitation to this event by engaging with councillors, as well as community and voluntary groups across the Borough, who the council has been working with to support the community with a variety of initiatives particularly over the period of the pandemic.

It has also emerged that the council has been offered £7,200 in funding from the Tourism NI (TNI) Events Sponsorship Scheme 2022/23 for the event, having submitted an application for £30,000.

The report said that officers have had a meeting with the Chief Executive of TNI to discuss support for the event and were advised of the financial constraints facing the organisation and over-subscription to this specific funding programme.

Given the commitment required if the offer of funding is accepted, it is proposed to decline this offer and instead work with TNI on a range of cross promotional initiatives for the Borough.

These, the report said, could happen without the constraints and commitments of a funding agreement, which ‘would place significant obligations upon the council for a limited return’.

The report continues to say that at the January 2022 council meeting, it was agreed to accept a proposal from Food NI to deliver the food element of Garden Show Ireland including a payment of £6,000 to the council.

The report said: “This arrangement worked very effectively for the Garden Show ensuring both the ‘Food to Go’ offer at the event as well as traders and producers showcased the excellent range of Northern Irish produce and hospitality.”

Food NI has now submitted a similar proposal , which includes ‘a commitment to make the food element of the event a high quality visitor experience that fits into the event look, feel and ‘enchanted’ theme.’

They have proposed a payment to the council of £3,000.

The report said that the food element of Enchanted Winter garden has been outsourced each year to a third party provider and a payment of £3,000 was received from the provider in 2021.

Council officers habve recommended that the proposed arrangements for Enchanted Winter Garden 2022 including application of a resident price freeze and a soft opening event be approved.

They also recommended that the outcome of the two applications to the Tourism NI Events Sponsorship Scheme be noted and the offer of £7,200 for Enchanted Winter Garden be declined - with officers to engage with TNI on alternative means to provide support.

They also proposed acceptance of the Food NI proposal to deliver the ‘food’ element of Enchanted Winter Garden, including a payment of £3,000 to the council.

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