AFTER the relief of Budget day, when â‚¬6m was handed down from on high, the launch this week of the preview programme replaced the euphoria with a quiet satisfaction as the reveal of a heady list of events for Limerickâ€™s stint as national City of Culture in 2014 took place.
The assembled politicians and policymakers clustered in St Johnâ€™s Church, a venue more accustomed to playing host to contemporary dance, as they kept to the theme of turning Limerick into a stage for the rest of Ireland, while trapeze artists whizzed overhead and local bands like Leading Armies showcased their wares.
There was the slightly strange sight of tuxedos and ballgowns and champagne being sipped at lunchtime on a Monday â€“ but the fact lingered not far from memory that this year of culture, dreamed up by arts minister Jimmy Deenihan in 2012, might not have happened at all.
Organisers were braced to receive a mere fraction of the funding allocated in the Budget last month, and their job was not made easier with a lack of time to get the programme off the ground.
Something akin to a miracle has happened in just six months, testament to the drive of board members led by Pat Cox, Bill Whelan and Paul Oâ€™Connell, but especially that of artistic director Karl Wallace, who has whipped together an â€œedgy, urban and contemporaryâ€ programme against the odds that focuses about 60/40 on local and outside projects.
The nature of the reveal, as Mr Wallace explained, will be that the full list of events - more than 200 in total across 13 themes - will happen on an ongoing basis, with the full brochure due out by the end of the year.
â€œWe will unveil what we have at that point, but I think we have always approached the programme, primarily because of time and planning, as being able to reveal as we go along, so that is what we are planning to do,â€ he said.
The artistic director also noted that the culture team are receiving approaches â€œall the timeâ€ from funded projects interested in coming to Limerick as the region becomes â€œIrelandâ€™s premiere cultural venue in 2014â€, to quote the words of Mr Cox.
This is the nub of the whole project, transforming Limerick into an â€œevents centre for Irelandâ€.
â€œThis year will be a chance to shine a light on Limerick and to lift the lid on the best that we have to offer as Irelandâ€™s premier cultural venue in 2014,â€ Mr Cox stressed.
Finance minister Michael Noonan, looking relaxed, said that â€œculture shouldnâ€™t be something that is for a small elite, or something that is only dipped into very occasionally.
â€œIt should be something part of the ordinary tapestry of ordinary life, where people will be as prepared to go to a concert or play or art exhibition as they would be to go for a pint or for a meal or go to a match,â€ he explained.
â€œI hope when the year is completed successfully that there will be a permanent change and legacy in Limerick where cultural life is part of the ordinary lives of people.â€
Minister Jimmy Deenihan, looking pleased, said that â€œthe level of artistic activity that is going on here really has impressed me no end, which is one of the reasons why I thought it would be a very good designation, that Limerick has all the attributes and all the ingredients to be a very successful city of cultureâ€.
We knew it, but now itâ€™s time for the country and wider world to come here and experience it.