For the first time since 1979, there will be no Townshippers Day held anywhere in the Eastern Townships this year. Known by people from Lac Megantic to Philipsburg as the go-to event for celebrations of local English culture and heritage, T-Day has been cancelled for 2017 after the Townshippers Association failed to find a municipality or institution willing to host the event.
“Townshippers 2017 is not going to happen,” said Gerald Cutting, president of Townshippers’ Association, “but this provides an excellent opportunity to look at other ways we might make it work.”
In a conversation with The Record following the social media announcement yesterday, Cutting explained that although two different municipalities initially showed interest in hosting the event, the realities of what has been involved in organizing the annual gathering eventually caused them both to withdraw. Ten years ago, the president said, the invitation to host might have brought back ten different options from a range of viable host communities, but in 2017 the association suddenly found themselves with none.
Though the Brome fairgrounds once again offered to hold the event, the association decided against that option because of the fact that the event had already been held there for two years in a row.
“It’s important to understand that the whole intent behind Townshippers day when it started in 1979 was to get Townshippers, citizens of the greater Townships area, to explore our own back yard by visiting a different municipality each year.” Cutting said.
“We’ve been reviewing Townshippers day for going on five years now. What we have witnessed over the past few years is that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to have partners, meaning municipalities or institutions, that want to host.”
The president pointed out that throughout its existence, Townshippers Day has operated on a model where it is organized by the host community or institution and not, as some might believe, by the association itself.
“We were, in many ways, the facilitators,” Cutting said. “Townshippers does not have funding to actually carry out Townshippers day.”
With municipalities facing their own budget cuts and a general decline in volunteerism, not many of them are eager to take on the organization of a large-scale cultural event, leading to the need for Townshippers to review the way they’ve been doing things.
“That model is no longer functional,” Cutting said, adding that, “All options are on the table, but we’ve got to find a way of solidifying some permanence.”
Read the full story in Thursday’s Record