THE partnership behind a successful dales festival has announced that it will distribute £15,000 to community groups.

Leyburn hosted the first Dales Food and Drink Festival last year, attracting crowds from across the north.

An estimated 18,000 people, including celebrities and film crews, attended the follow-up three-day event in Leyburn over the May Day Bank Holiday this year.

The town council is already in talks with the organisers about the 2004 event.

In the meantime, the Leyburn and Mid-Wensleydale Partnership has announced that it is launching a community fund to share some of its success with local people.

A total of £15,000 has been set aside for community projects, and local groups and organisations have been invited to apply for grants of up to £5,000.

Spokesman David Berry said: "We want to keep the procedures as simple as possible. We can supply a statement of the criteria and a straightforward application form on request and will give all projects prompt consideration."

Applications for funding must come from non-profit making, properly constituted organisations, including town and parish councils, which are willing to come up with a quarter of the project costs.

It is hoped that money from the fund may help unlock grants from other sources.

Mr Berry said: "We hope that, by helping local organisations obtain other public funding to put alongside our contributions, community projects with a total cost of between £30,000 and £45,000 will be generated this year."

It is hoped that the 2004 event could add to the fund, although the town council and organisers are concerned that Leyburn could be overwhelmed by even bigger crowds.

They are now looking for alternative venues which would allow more room for manoeuvre.

Mr Berry said: "Profits from the 2004 festival will be used in a similar way to help local community projects in the following year."

Applicants to the fund must be based in mid-Wensleydale in an area stretching from Patrick Brompton in the east to Castle Bolton in the west but also including Coverdale.

More information is available from the Leyburn Community Office in the Market Place or by telephoning (01969) 624970.

Applications for the current round of grants should be received by Sunday, November 30.