ALMOST £2m of public money has been committed to stage two more editions of Durham’s Lumiere festival.

Durham County Council’s cabinet agreed to spend £1.8m to fund the event, which will be held in 2019 and 2021.

The council has insisted the investment represents value for money after last year’s four-day lights display attracted 240,000 visitors to the city and brought in more than £7.5m to the county economy – a 1,260 per cent return on the local authority’s contribution, according to its own figures.

Speaking at the meeting, Coun Ossie Johnson, cabinet member for tourism, culture, leisure and rural issues, said: “This is a good news report, this sets out proposals for the council’s continued investment in Lumiere and highlights the success of the 2017 festival and its social and economic impact. “While this is a significant investment of four years and two festivals, this investment is also matched by Arts Council England, who have recognised the wide reaching impact with a support grant of £1m.

“Lumiere is a highlight of the Durham calendar which enhances the county’s reputation regionally, nationally and internationally.”

The 240,000 visitors to last year’s Lumiere, the fifth held in Durham, was more than triple the number who attended the first in 2009.

The cash to fund the council’s investment in two more festivals will be taken from DCC’s Cultural Programme Reserve, made up of VAT windfalls. It will also provide £100k-worth of ‘in-kind assistance’ to each event.