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Thursday, January 20, 2022

‘Heart-broken’ as Kennedy Kane McArthur Festival of Running races cancelled

The Kennedy Kane McArthurs Festival of Running – ‘Dark Hedges’ half marathon and 5 mile fun run – is the latest road running event to suffer a blow due to the introduction of the ‘provisions of the roads act 2010’, which came into effect in 2017.

This legislation set outs the provisions for events where the use of public roads are required. As part of these provisions, event organisers must submit to their local council a management and traffic management plan. The cost of such plan and it’s implementation by a specialist company, can run into the thousands.

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Such cost to the Kennedy Kane Festival of Running is estimated in the region of £5,000 – an amount that the Community Association say they have, forcing them to make the hard decision to cancel this year races due to lack of funding.

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A spokesperson from Springwell Running Club said:

“The number of road races being organised by running clubs has steadily decreased and in the current climate this decrease will continue. The latest race to face an uncertain future is the iconic ‘Dark Hedges’ Half Marathon which is part of the Kennedy Kane McArthur Festival of Running organised by the Dervock District Community Association (DDCA).

“The problems started on the 25th January 2017 when the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly enacted an Order, commencing the special events provisions of the Roads (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 2010. These provisions became effective on the 4th September 2017.”

Springhill Running Club preparing for Dark Hedges half marathon as part of the 2019 Kennedy Kane McArthur Festival of Running.

The Kennedy Kane Festival of Running began back in 1984 and has grown significantly in the years, seeing runners come from all over the world to take part in the festival, including from McArthers adopted home country of South Africa.

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In 2012 a special centenary event was organised, celebrating the 100 years since Kennedy Kane McArthur won his gold medal in the marathon event at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. The village was also one of the stop off points for the Olympic Torch as part of the the torches tour of the UK in the run up to the London Olympics in 2012.

The chairperson of Dervock and District Community Association, Frankie Cunningham, spoke to the Ballymoney Bubble at the weekend about being ‘Heartbroken, stating:

“I am actually heartbroken.  We have painstakingly, over the years – working in partnership with Springwell RC, MLA/Cllrs, CC&GBC and the PSNI created a family orientated event; providing shared space that not only commemorates the story and legacy of KK McArthur who was born in Dervock – but through the medium of ‘SPORT’ and ‘MUSIC’ which welcomes musicians, entertainers, runners, food stalls, cyclists and visitors from ALL communities – such as – Spain, South Africa, Mallusk, Larne, Ballymena and Dundalk. 

“It’s apparent the village requires this ‘Community’ event – to exhibit, to showcase what is good about the village and its community – to encourage dialogue, community development and tourism – but this legislation [without consultation and divorced from reality] has literally, ‘stopped us in our TRACKS’.

Continuing about the irony of it, the Chairperson went onto say:

“Government, statutory agencies, funding streams [Private & Public] are advertising/promoting about getting people out to exercise, encouraging different ethnic groups, religions, young and old [intergenerational] to mix using sport as a medium and common denominator to build on community relations and personal development – this legislation actually discriminates against road runners, when we have government promoting inclusiveness, tolerance; then owing to a disgraceful and unnecessary piece of legislation passed by a government that is supposed to work for the people – jeopardises those fundamental objectives.

In conclusion Mr Cunningham called a review by the current Minister for Infrastructure, Nichola Mallon, ‘little to late’:

I accept that eventually; through lobbying – common sense has prevailed and Nichola Mallon – Minister for Infrastructure has agreed to review this piece of legislation – but too little too late. We as a community must try and pick up the pieces – we’re already debating whether to continue with the ‘Festival’ [Children’s entertainment, music, bouncy castles, food stalls, etc.] – aware that in an area with low expectations, low inward investment, poor physical and mental well-being the impact could be morally damaging to future engagements with the wider community.

Pic: Frankie Cunningham.

The local Councillor for the area, John McAuley has expressed his disappointed at the cancellation of this ‘long standing iconic event’, saying:

“I welcome a review into the unnecessary legislation, that has resulted in cancellation of the Dark Hedges Half Marathon (DHHM) this year, despite work behind the scenes by many until the 11hr hour, in a bid to secure the finances required to cover the enforced traffic management charges.

“Hopefully the review will result in changes to this disgraceful piece of legislation, and we see the festival returned to its former glory in 2021.”

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