Funfair organisers 'sticking two fingers up' at traders ahead of Foyle Maritime Festival, says MLA

Funfair viewed from the Strand Road
-Credit: (Image: Mark H Durkan)

A funfair set up near the quay in Derry has been accused of "sticking two fingers up to local residents and traders" by a local MLA, after a row over space ahead of the Foyle Maritime Festival.

The festival, which starts on Thursday, is expected to bring over 100,000 people to the quay across four days of events and attractions on Derry's riverfront.

Traders who had hoped to set up in a council-organised 'food village' had accused Xtreme Funfair of "restricting access" by setting up on a plot of land between the quay and the Strand Road.

Read more: Foyle Maritime Festival 2024: Guide to road closures, parking, travel, food and drink and more

Read more: Council promising 'dynamic programme on and off the water' as excitement builds in Derry for Maritime Festival

The council, meanwhile, had said the funfair is not part of the festival programme and that organisers have not "engaged with council prior to arriving on site".

A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane council confirmed it had been forced to "rework" the site set aside for the food village and set-up work was well underway by traders along the quay on Wednesday, ahead of the festival kick-off on Thursday.

In a statement, the Legenderry Food Network - an organisation representing a collective of local businesses - had urged the funfair organisers to "reconsider their stance and to support local businesses by removing their equipment and vehicles from the area assigned for the Legenderry Food area and granting them access to the Foyle Maritime Festival".

The statement continued: "Legenderry Food expresses its profound disapproval and disappointment regarding the decision by Xtreme Funfair and G-Force Events to set up temporary amusements on a vacant site off the Strand Road, ultimately restricting access to local Legenderry traders who had planned to trade at the upcoming Foyle Maritime Festival this week.

"Our local traders have worked tirelessly to contribute to the vibrancy and economy of our city. By denying them the oppportunity to participate in one of our region's key events, Xtreme Funfair and G-Force Events not only jeopardise their businesses but also erode the collaborative and inclusive nature that Derry is known for."

Writing on social media, SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said: "As soon as I saw it being erected on Friday, I was alarmed at its proximity to residential apartments, the cramped layout, the uneven surface of the site and what I perceived to be potential risks around access and egress.

"I contacted the Health and Safety Executive and then Council."

He continued: "I have been busy today, working with others, to get this legally complex issue resolved but the approach from Xtreme Funfair (Fundamania) has been to stick two fingers up to local residents and traders."

He added: "I'm hopeful that tomorrow sees a breakthrough so our Legenderry Food traders, who provide local jobs, can set up where they planned to and where they paid to."

Mr Durkan continued: "Other amusement providers entered the tendering process to be involved in the festival. This operation just rolled in and set up with no regard for anything or anyone else. If it was easy resolved it would have been resolved by now."

The SDLP MLA said he has made contact with the owners of the site, who had in turn "let it out to another company" who had "made a contract with the fair and was oblivious to the wider circumstances".

In an initial statement, a spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane council confirmed that the "temporary amusement facility on a vacant site adjacent to Rock Mills on the Strand Road is not part of Council’s Foyle Maritime Festival programme but is being operated and managed by a private operator".

The council spokesperson continued: "Neither the landowner nor the operator have engaged with Council prior to arriving on site and the amusement provider did not take part in the Council’s open procurement process to provide these services.

"While Council actively encourages the private sector and local businesses to be creative and innovative and to look at ways to enhance festival and events, it is extremely disappointing that this operator chose not to be part of the formal procurement process for amusement services at the festival.

"The Council has been in contact with the operator since the amusements have been set up and site inspections in relation to environmental health, planning and health and safety regulations have been carried out. As part of the engagement with the land owner and the amusement operators, Council has also been in contact with the HSENI who is the regulator, to express its concerns."

The statement continues: "While there is currently no breach of legal obligations, Council does have serious concerns about the current location of this temporary amusement facility and the impact it is having on local residents, businesses, commuters and members of the public attending the Foyle Maritime Festival this week.

"The Council appointed amusement provider will be operating as planned but have raised significant concerns with Council. Officers are also having to engage with local food producers who had signed up to be part of the Legenderry Food stalls at the festival to inform them that this private amusement facility may also have an impact on Council’s ability to provide the food stalls in the agreed location."

The spokesperson added: "Council will continue to monitor and assess the facility over the coming days to minimise the negative impact it is having on residents, businesses and the wider community. In the meantime, the Council would encourage the public to be mindful that this facility is not part of the Council’s Foyle Maritime Festival programme and responsibility for any activity on this site lies solely with the landowner and the amusement operators.

"Council will however continue to monitor and assess the facility over the coming days and every effort will be made minimise any impact on the Foyle Maritime Festival."

And in a later statement, a council spokesperson said: "Following several site meetings along the Quay today officials from the Council have successfully reworked and designed the site layout to accommodate all the traders that had signed up for the Legenderry Food Festival."

The council spokesperson added: "The Council is grateful to the traders for their understanding of this complex situation and is confident they will have a busy trading experience over the coming days with local and visitors alike coming out to support their businesses during the Foyle Maritime Festival.

The funfair organisers have been approached for comment.

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