Sticky Fingers claim Council have ‘abandoned’ Giant’s Lair

March 29, 2016

As controversy surrounding Slieve Gullion and its activities continued last week,  the group behind an innovative living storybook set in Slieve Gullion Forest Park have opened up to The Examiner about their own long running dispute with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

In a statement provided to The Examiner, Grainne Powell, Chief Executive of Sticky Fingers Arts, the group who created the must see cultural attraction, the Giant’s Lair, have claimed that during a meeting with Council representatives last year, they were informed that “the new super-Council was in charge of the project and that any previous arrangements or partnership were not being honoured.”

She added that subsequent letters to the Council and Slieve Gullion Councillors asking for a meeting to resolve the problems were “rebuffed” before the group were told in June to “hand over the keys of the Giant’s Lair and the Hobbit’s houses.”

“We have no idea why the council has behaved in this way – it was always clear from the outset that the Giant’s Lair was devised as a long-term project,” said Ms Powell.

“The supporting paperwork is extensive and the only conclusion we can reach is that the Council never actually read any of the supporting documents and therefore had no idea what the project entailed, despite spending ratepayers’ money on its development.

“It would be fair to state that the Giant’s Lair was a success not because of the Council’s input but despite it.”

Sticky Fingers say that the group was solely responsible for coming up with the concept and the ideas behind the flagship project and the site was designed to change with the seasons, “come alive with performance, music and stories throughout the year.”

“Basically we completed all the work,” added the Chief Executive.

“Sticky Fingers secured, raised and invested over 60% of the funding needed for the project as the lead partner.

“The funding from NITB was secured on the condition that Sticky Fingers would jointly manage the project for a minimum of ten years by devising professional quality arts events with regular programmes and activities, create employment within the cultural sector and sustain this through activities and merchandising. A ten-year service level agreement with the Council was signed.

“The details of the full project aims and objectives and all associated programmes and activities were clearly outlined within the business plan and again in the marketing plan and are a matter of public record.”

“The artistic team put so much work, passion and creativity into creating the Giant’s lair, we are extremely proud of what was achieved and by the overwhelming support and appreciation by the local community in south Armagh as well as from across Ireland and beyond.

“It is heartbreaking to now see the little fairy village abandoned and derelict looking with no proper care in maintaining what was such as magical place just left to rot and ruin at the hands of our super council.”

Ms Powell said Sticky Fingers was now in breach of contract with a number of funders, “as we have failed to deliver on the conditions of the grant, which has now jeopardized future events and projects within the area.”

It would seem that the dispute between Sticky Fingers and the Council may also lead to a name change for the project as a Council spokesperson revealed that the arts group have advised they had copyrighted the Giant’s Lair name.

“Since receiving this notification the Council have been referring to the area as The Slieve Gullion Fairy Walk,” said the spokesperson who also claimed that the Council have provided Sticky Fingers Arts “with a number of dates to discuss these matters, but, unfortunately, they have been unavailable on all dates offered.”

Despite the controversy, the Ring of Gullion AONB are keen to reiterate that the Giant’s Lair is open as usual over the Easter break for families to enjoy the magical fairy trail.