Abbey Medieval Festival will make a triumphant return this year after securing funding from Moreton Bay Regional Council for the next two years.
The motion to provide a Community Operational Support Grant of $150,000 per year for the next two years was passed unanimously at Council’s general meeting on February 16.
Organiser of the event, Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology, has since announced the festival would take place on July 9 and 10.
It had been forced to cancel the event, which typically attracts more than 30,000 people and is the organisation’s major fundraiser, in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.
In November, council resolved to provide a $200,000 Community Operational Support Grant to enable the museum it to operate at full-service levels during its financial recovery.
Two years of festival cancellations have resulted in the museum running at a significant operating loss, forcing it to draw on operational reserves to fund its operations. With those reserves exhausted, the organisation had been drawing down on limited capital reserve holdings.
The latest council funding is specifically for the festival, which will help re-establish the organisation’s financially sustainable operational model from 2024 and beyond.
An independent economic impact study funded by Tourism and Events Queensland found the festival generated direct and incremental expenditure of $2,020,462 to the Moreton Bay Region economy and 14,267 visitor night stays.
Mayor Peter Flannery says the festival is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
“I’ve experienced the fun for myself, from jousters and performers, to re-enactments and fantastic food, it’s like going back in time to the Middle Ages,” he says.
Councillor Brooke Savige (Div 1) says the funding is not only a win for the Abbey, but for local Medieval enthusiasts and tourists.
“The Festival is widely-renowned as a unique, iconic cultural event, and keeping it alive is an important part of Council’s mission to support events that help our communities thrive,” Cr Savige says.
Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology Director Edith Cuffe says they were hoping for one grant of $150,000 and were thrilled to receive another grant for 2023, securing the festival’s future for the next two years and putting the museum on a path to financial recovery after a tough couple of years.
“Our goal is to get back on track … to come back from that we have quite a deficit to recoup before we can really see ourselves achieving the wonderful things we’d like to achieve here,” she says.
The hard work has already begun to organise the event in half the usual time.
“Instead of having 10 months to prepare, we have five months. It’s achievable and we will do it but it’s all hands at the deck, as they say,” Ms Cuffe says.
The community can help by buying tickets and volunteering on the day and during preplanning in the lead-up. Tickets are expected to go on sale in early to mid-April. Follow the Facebook page and website for updates.
“We’re really grateful for the local support and the support of council but also the recognition of our festival in playing an important role in the economic and cultural landscape. It’s something we’re really grateful for,” Ms Cuffe says.
The funding comes as Council promotes its six-week Back a Local campaign, which encourages locals to eat, drink, shop, play, spend at and back a local business.
The campaign follows the recent COVID-19 Omicron wave which has adversely affected local businesses with staff shortages, supply chain issues and loss of visitation.
Ms Cuffe says the Back a Local campaign and stronger local visitation was key to keeping its doors open and continuing its work in preserving historic artefacts.
“We’d love to see our locals who haven’t been to see the museum or even those who have to come along and see what we have here,” Ms Cuffe says.
“There’s a world of history on their doorstep. It’s a wonderful opportunity to visit the museum and see artefacts from around the world and see stained glass windows that date back to the 15th century.”
Locals typically make up 25-30 per cent of visitors to the museum and during the Abbey Medieval Festival, it the figure is more than 50 per cent.
Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology is at 1-63 The Abbey Place, Caboolture. Visit abbeymuseum.com.au.
For more information about Back a Local, visit moretonbay.gov.au/back-a-local