Two Northern Rivers festivals have been successful in gaining funding from the Tourism NSW Regional Flagship Events Program for 2010 – the Byron Bay International Film Festival and the Big Joke Comedy Festival in Bangalow.

Each will receive $10,000 towards organisational and promotion costs. 

The Byron Bay Film Festival celebrates the spirit of Byron Bay and the North Coast through the universal medium of independent film. It will be held over nine days from 5-13 March.

Its director, J’aimee Skippon-Volke, said the funding represents genuine recognition of the commitment to grow the event so that it becomes an annual icon on the Australian calendar.

“We are extremely pleased to receive this level of support as it will allow us to reach a much broader audience and build on the reputation the North Coast has for being a serious centre for filmmakers and film making,” said J’aimee.

It is the second year that the Big Joke Comedy Festival in Bangalow has received this funding to help it increase visitor numbers from 2700 in 2009 to more than 4000 in 2010. It is held from 18-23 March.

Festival director Mandy Nolan welcomed the news. “The support of NSW Tourism last year enabled us to expand our profile and market into areas that were previously out of our reach. We are excited at the prospect of supporting Big Joke 2010 with a dynamic new approach which involves us taking on a social media campaign,” said Mandy.

Northern Rivers Tourism helps to promote and support events which are crucial for regional areas in attracting visitors.

“Especially at off-peak times of the year, cultural events like the Byron Bay Film Festival and the Big Joke are a great representation of the creativity and values that contribute to our destination brand,” said NRT CEO Russell Mills.

The Minister for Tourism, Jodi McKay, in announcing the funding, said these events attract thousands of visitors each year and reflect the identity and unique character of each region.

More than $420,000 is being provided to support 20 festivals across NSW next year.