By Adam Wilson, Events Champion, Dumfries and Galloway Council

FOR a sparsely populated rural area Dumfries and Galloway packs a substantial cultural punch. Successive council administrations have recognised the need for long-term investment in the arts and culture, delivering bespoke strategies to develop major events into a vibrant sector of our tourism economy.

It’s an example of the invaluable role councils can play in realising the potential of their areas – something they are uniquely placed to do because they are close to the people they serve. In Dumfries and Galloway the result has been the sustainable growth of more than a dozen events that have now achieved national and international significance and are much loved in their local communities. During 2018 we’ll welcome visitors from across Scotland and beyond to events including Big Burns Supper (billed as the world’s biggest Burns Night celebration) and the 10-day Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival.

From now until 2021 we will support signature events that are expected to generate £30-plus million for the region. This represents a superb return on public investment, with each pound from the Major Festivals and Events Strategy securing £23 in the regional economy – invaluable for our SME business base.

This year sees the 16th annual Spring Fling, Scotland’s premier open studios visual arts and craft weekend in May, and the 20th Wigtown Book Festival in September. The economic impact of the book festival alone is £3 million, which is hugely welcome for Wigtown, a town of 900 tucked into a beautiful but very rural nook of south-west Scotland.

Our strategy is concise and tailored, targeting support to the most economically important regional festivals and events. So the signature events also include The Scottish Rally, World Championship Ice Hockey and The Tour of Britain. The impact extends beyond the arts and cultural sectors, not least by securing new income streams for the hospitality industry and enhancing our distinctive regional identity and profile. These events are also beneficial in bringing towns and villages together, promoting sporting activity, health and wellbeing and supporting fulfilling careers. They show that councils can achieve excellent results with the right strategy, an unshakeable commitment and through effective partnerships with creative organisations.

Local authorities are also perfectly positioned to act in tandem with other agencies to ensure that funding from a national level has the maximum impact. And likewise, creative organisations are adept at responding to funding opportunities.

Scotland has a great reputation for arts and culture; they are areas where we can build a robust, sustainable future that provides good careers and generates prosperity. This matters greatly for rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway that want to encourage young people to stay, or return, to build rewarding lives. It’s is an issue that will come into sharp focus in coming months with 2018 being Scotland’s Year of Young People. We will be working with the signature events we support, and using our wider expertise in major events, to promote youth culture and to develop our young people. We will also continue to use our events and festivals as an effective way of raising our profile as a visitor destination for all generations.

The potential of Scotland’s events and festivals economy is immense – as we see in Edinburgh each year and was clear from the 2014 Commonwealth Games. In Dumfries and Galloway we believe that policy, investment and innovation will bring further regional growth. Our past success and future ambition underline how much local authorities can achieve for the cultural economy, benefiting the local community and Scotland as a whole.