Over many years Loanhead Gala has enjoyed considerable support from the people of Loanhead who have attended and participated in events in great numbers. Both the public and the local business community have provided strong financial support and many people have been willing to come forward and assist as volunteers at the time when Gala events have been taking place.
There has however been one area of particular difficulty and that concerns the number of people willing to actually serve on the Gala Committee and undertake the huge amount of administrative and organisational work and also the extensive fundraising required to allow the annual celebrations to take place. Numbers have been dropping steadily over several years, culminating in the 2019 Gala celebrations being organised and run by a committee of only 6 people.
This was the lowest ever number in the long history of the event and resulted in a handful of unpaid volunteers bearing responsibility for the entire organisation of one of Scotland’s largest community events.
The problem of a lack of committee members has been exacerbated by two additional factors. Firstly, two of the main office bearers who have given many years’ service are not getting any younger. They have over recent years indicated a desire to step back and pass responsibility for the Gala to the next generation.
Secondly, over the last decade, the level of regulation and bureaucracy which requires to be negotiated to allow large scale public events and, in particular, large public processions to take place has increased enormously. Various consents and licences require to be obtained. A detailed event plan resembling a small book has to be prepared and submitted to the Council and the emergency services.
Traffic orders, risk assessments, traffic management plans with diversion routes and detailed stewards’ instructions are all required, as are the likes of suitable indemnity insurance, first aid and ambulance cover. Detailed liaison is required with both the police and the council. That is all before dealing with the bands and many other groups which actually take part. The workload of the Gala Committee’s Parade Marshal who attends to all of the arrangements for the processions has increased enormously in recent years.
The Gala Committee acknowledges that, whilst many people will wish to see these events continue, there is an understandable reluctance on the part of many to take on responsibility for the extensive and onerous behind the scenes tasks which must be attended to.
A primary aim of the committee is to ensure the continuation of the Gala tradition in Loanhead for future generations. Taking all of the above factors into account, the committee members reached the conclusion that the best option open to them is to reduce the organisational workload. That will make the event more manageable for the current small committee in the short term and hopefully create an event structure which is more sustainable and not so much of a challenge for others to undertake in future years.
The organisational resources available to the committee will essentially be concentrated on the Children’s Day which is of course the most important element of the annual celebrations. It is intended that the scale and standard of the Children’s Day achieved in previous years will not be diminished. Whilst a Gala Week will be maintained with the retention of some of the smaller events, the other large scale event, the Carnival Parade will not be staged in 2020. This will achieve a considerable reduction in the organisational work required.
The committee fully understands the cancellation of the Carnival Parade will disappoint many people. Many residents hold happy memories of participating in the event in their own childhood and it is a much loved event. The decision has been taken with much reluctance and sadness, but we hope it will be understood that, after appealing for more committee members over several years, we were essentially left with no choice and the step was necessary to ensure the continuation of the Children’s Day itself.
It is intended to incorporate certain elements of the Carnival Parade in the main parade on the Children’s Day, so hopefully we can retain much of the fun and enjoyment of the Carnival and reinforce the position of the Children’s Day Grand Procession as Midlothian’s largest annual parade. It is of course the case that most towns have only one annual parade. Whilst Loanhead was not unique in having two, the situation was unusual.
The committee members hope the reasons for their course of action will be understood and that they can count on the full support of the Loanhead public to ensure the success of this year’s Gala.