Letters to the Editor

ARTS

We are writing in response to the letter headlined “No events in the west area” (The Galloway Gazette, May 12).

First, as far as we are aware we have responded to all queries about West Fest.

Secondly, a brief history: 10 years ago a committee was formed to organise arts events in Wigtownshire as part of the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival. The reason for this was that D&G Arts Festival events in Wigtownshire were few in number and not well supported, and it seemed a sensible move at that time to set up a separate committee. This subsequently became (in 2004) an autonomous organisation – West Fest.

Until 2006 West Fest had a short concentrated festival at about the same time as the D&G Arts Festival; after 2006 West Fest organised events throughout the year. Since 2004 West Fest has arranged more than 60 events, covering theatre, music, visual arts, opera, ballet and children’s shows.

Since its inception, West Fest has received a grant from Dumfries and Galloway Council. The events have all been organised by a small group of volunteers, who unfortunately have not had the time or resources to raise additional funds. As our grant from the council has been reduced this year and will not continue thereafter, we are in negotiation with D&G Arts Festival with a view to a closer relationship from next year.

In the meantime, we are continuing to arrange events this year. An excellent art exhibition is currently on show at Stranraer Museum; the National Theatre of Scotland is bringing its production of “Calum’s Road” to the Ryan Centre on June 15; the Dave Donohoe Jazz Band is in Logan Gardens on July 27; the actor Scott Kyle will be speaking at the Ryan Centre on September 13; we are supporting the Whithorn Art Trail on July 19-21 and the “Young Guns” event at Park Fest in Stranraer on August 23; and there will be another exhibition in Stranraer Museum in November.

Our AGM is on May 28 at 6pm in the Ryan Centre. We would urge the (unnamed) letter writer to come along and join our committee. His expertise in traditional music would be welcome.

David Sumner,

chairman,

Irene Hawker, secretary,

West Fest,

Moss Park, Ravenstone, Whithorn.

WHITHORN TRUST

I was pleased to see that the Mill on the Fleet has been able to get additional funding from Dumfries and Galloway Council but cannot understand why the Whithorn Trust cannot be treated with the same consideration.

I don’t suppose it has anything to do with Gatehouse of Fleet being closer to Dumfries and not out on a limb at the end of the Machars peninsula. I am reminded of the D & G Arts Council map of the region where anywhere west and south of Gatehouse of Fleet is shown as an artistic wasteland sponsored by a little-funded outpost while the rest of the region shows all the venues and events.

What is the old saying? “Out of sight, out of mind?”

Melville Barr,

Whithorn.

Thanks

We would like to thank all the local businesses and individuals who supported Purple Week in March. It was great to see the “power of Purple” throughout Newton Stewart. It not only helped to raise awareness for the Cancer Research UK Relay for Life in Dumfries and Galloway – which returns to Bladnoch Park, Wigtown, on July 6 and 7 – it also raised an amazing £1641.67.

Jim Cronnie,

Corvisel Road,

Newton Stewart.

Fantastic festival

Through the pages of your excellent newspaper I would like to correct an error in the Kirkcudbright Brochure. It states the Galloway Children’s Festival is on July 7. The correct date is Sunday, June 30.

Children and families come from all over the region for the festival, which is a fantastic mix of music, storytelling, puppetry, theatre, dancing and giant bouncy play areas. It is the largest in Scotland dedicated to children. It has been running successfully since 2002. Its success is, in great part, due to the support of the media, the council, local groups and charities and we express our thanks.

This year’s theme, tying in with the major art exhibition, is Tam o’ Shanter, and we invite everyone to dress up for the occasion. Prizes will be awarded to the best costumes.

Tony Bonning,

Galloway Children’s

Festival.

Cluster schools

Dumfries and Galloway Council’s position on its cluster school arrangements seems to be unravelling by the day. It now seems to have dropped any pretence that it is a scheme based on educational improvement and is now claiming that, rather than it being a sound policy, it is being “forced upon them”. The council’s position is based on half-truths and lies. The half-truths are “the council’s inability to recruit headteacher posts”. How does it know this when in the past two years the council has not even tried to recruit permanent heads for Drummore, Drochduil, Minnigaff, Portpartick, Sorbie, Kirkinner and Kirkcowan?

The pupils in the headteacher’s class will have a single dedicated class teacher following clustering. This from a department which now increasingly seems to measure a teacher’s worth by the time they spend out of, rather than in, the classroom. Do you really trust this? The department states 94% of headteachers “find the job too much for them” and it would “result in serious multiple role workload issues and generate a two-tier system creating confusion and lack of equality” if some heads were to continue to teach. The council uses this figure, which presumably is taken out of context, to propose slipping in by far the biggest strata of middle non-teaching management ever to exist in the Education Department without apparently even realising it is doing so.

The biggest lie of all is that schools have to be clustered to work together. This is not so. And the council says “40 per cent of headteachers in the area are due for retirement in the next four years”. This can’t be calculated and is an unknown variable. “Consultations have been carried out with interested parties throughout the Wigtownshire area”. Again, not so. Are council taxpayers who fund the education system not interested parties?

It is absolutely self-evident that there has been no demand from the parents or the public in the rural villages for this change to their local schools. Thank goodness for our nine local councillors who were elected one year ago. Not one of them proposed it, not one of them mentioned it and certainly not one of them gave any indication they would support this damaging change. We now have to count on them.

Surely, in light of the fact the Education Department cannot even offer a consistent and coherent set of reasons for the change, it is about time good sense was brought to bear and those officials who have dreamed up this policy are told to think again. This would allow our village schools to go about their business of learning and teaching and protect them from becoming pawns in some sort of power game.

Dr M Barry Miller,

Mahaar Schoolhouse,

Kirkcolm.