Celtic Colours reps outline festival’s impact on town

PORT HAWKESBURY: Figures compiled by the Celtic Colours International Festival suggest that the Cape Breton-wide event is still growing within the Town of Port Hawkesbury, nearly two decades after the festival’s 1997 launch.

Celtic Colours executive director Mike MacSween and artistic director Dawn Beaton appeared before Port Hawkesbury Town Council’s latest regular meeting earlier this week, to thank the town for the cooperation that has led to increased ticket sales, more participation by community groups and a higher economic impact on the town during the annual October musical celebration.

The 20th anniversary of Celtic Colours in 2016 saw 2,286 tickets sold for the three events hosted in Port Hawkesbury, as opposed to 1,700 tickets sold in 2015 and 1,266 sold in 2014 when the town only hosted the festival’s opening-night concert. As well, the number of daytime community cultural experiences held in Port Hawkesbury has sharply increased from four in 2014 to 18 in 2016, with attendance rising from 1,026 to 1,105 during that time.

“By and large, we’re working with community-hosting organizations that are deriving certain value out of working with us and hosting those shows,” MacSween told the May 2 council meeting at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s Shannon Studio.

“We’re pretty proud to be working with them, and certainly, having them involved adds a whole lot of value for us as well.”

As a result of this increasing participation by Celtic Colours organizers, community volunteers and audience members, the estimated gross revenue for Port Hawkesbury community organizations rose to $32,972 in 2016, after totaling $20,760 in 2015 and $25,919 in 2014.

MacSween and Beaton presented this data only a few weeks after Port Hawkesbury organizers received word of the town’s shifting role in the Celtic Colours schedule. While the town hosted three of last year’s mainstage shows, a development that MacSween attributed to the festival’s 20th anniversary, only two such events are planned for town venues this year.

“We’re still doing 49 shows [overall], but we’re trying to rationalize some of the things that the festival has to do,” MacSween remarked.

“We’ve been doing two shows here [in Port Hawkesbury] for awhile, and we’ve had a great deal of success with that… We’ll certainly be evaluating how things go this year in the 21st year, and for future years, we’ll see if there’s a possibility to expand on that.”

As well, the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre will now host the Celtic Colours closing concert, as opposed to its previous decade of welcoming festival patrons on opening night. Sydney’s Centre 200, which has hosted the final night of mainstage entertainment during this time, will now host the opening-night showcase.

Despite these scheduling changes, Deputy Mayor Trevor Boudreau remained upbeat about Port Hawkesbury’s stake in the Celtic Colours line-up.

“It’s about quality and quantity,” Boudreau suggested. “So if you balance those out, two great shows would be wonderful here.”

The Celtic Colours International Festival will release its 2017 line-up of artists on Monday, June 26, and tickets will go on sale for the event on Tuesday, July 11.