COUNCILLORS are being asked to pledge more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money to ensure a spectacular light festival returns to the North-East next year.

Last week, the Arts Council announced £1.245m to help stage Lumiere in Durham City in 2015 and 2017.

Now Durham County Council chiefs want to offer a further £500,000 towards the November 2015 event, plus £100,000 of in-kind assistance.

A report due to go before the authority’s cabinet next week (Wednesday, July 16) says Lumiere is of ‘considerable’ importance to the economy, there is ‘clear public demand’ for its return and an estimated £1.7m budget, up from £1.4m for 2013, is ‘achievable’.

An independent evaluation of last year’s event, which attracted 175,000 visitors over four nights, found it: boosted the economy by £5.8m (up from £4.3m for 2011’s event); resulted in more than 20,000 overnight stays; generated publicity worth £3.16m (up from £2.25m in 2011); and the council got a 1,358 per cent return on its £400,000 investment (up from 983 per cent for 2011).

Of the 714 people who took part in a visitor survey, four in five said their experience was good or very good and the art was good; 88 per cent said the atmosphere was good or very good; 90 per cent wanted Lumiere to return; and 95 per cent said they would attend again.

Of the predicted budget of £1.7m, the council and the Arts Council would each give £500,000, and the remaining £700,000 would have to come from other organisations and sponsors.

Council leader Simon Henig said: “Lumiere has put us firmly on the world map and has become our signature event.

“By continuing to work very closely with (Lumiere producers) Artichoke I have every confidence a 2015 event would deliver the sort of benefits we have seen grow so dramatically since the first festival in 2009.

“I would like to encourage organisations throughout our area to help us deliver this fantastic event.”

Cabinet will be asked to approve re-commissioning Artichoke to stage Lumiere in 2015 and pledge £500,000 plus £100,000 of in-kind assistance when it meets at County Hall on Wednesday, July 16.