WITH Limerick National City of Culture 2014 barely off the ground, its artistic director Karl Wallace has quit his post, the Limerick Leader can confirm.
Mr Wallace, who was largely responsible for putting together the programme of events launched amid great fanfare on New Year’s Eve, tendered his resignation by letter to the HR department at Limerick City and County Council in recent days.
It is reported that City of Culture’s international programmer Jo Mangan and Commissioning and legacy programmer Maeve McGrath have also tendered their resignations.
City manager Conn Murray is currently on leave and Mr Wallace has been asked to attend a meeting next Monday to discuss the matter.
But the Leader has learned that Mr Wallace has already informed friends of his decision to leave the post he was appointed to in March 2013.
Mr Wallace is understood to believe he has been increasingly undermined and marginalised in recent weeks and his working relationship with Patricia Ryan, chief executive officer of Limerick National City of Culture 2014, has suffered.
“While I regret making an early departure, I can no longer stand over a project that I have concerns about, concerns that have been repeatedly aired but not addressed,” Mr Wallace told the Irish Independent.
“From May onwards, I outlined the necessary staffing structure to deliver the programme including positions such as a technical manager, education and outreach advisor, operations manager. As we progressed, it was very clear that those requests were not going to be honoured and also that there was a lack of basic understanding and arts expertise of the structure that is required to make a project like this work,” he added.
Mr Wallace, a former director of the Belltable Arts Centre, has called a meeting for this Thursday, January 2, at which he intends to give “an important presentation” to up to 40 people prominent in arts and culture in Limerick.
This is likely to be a meeting at which Mr Wallace will outline the reasons for his resignation and could be followed by a press statement.
At the official launch of the City of Culture in St Mary’s Cathedral on New Year’s Eve, Mr Wallace was thanked for his contribution by chairman Pat Cox and by Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan. But Mr Wallace did not speak at the event and maintained a low-key presence.
Amid reports of a personality clash between Mr Wallace and Ms Ryan, a former advisor to Pat Cox, the former Progressive Democrats politician said “issues of controversy” had arisen in other cities which had received national or European city of culture designations.
“As chair of the board, I have studied the progress of other cities of culture along the way, in Liverpool, in Cork and in Derry,” he said.
“One of things I noticed in all of them is there are always issues of controversy; issues of controversy over people, personality, process. These are not unimportant but they are not the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is about delivering a successful programme and delivering events that attract a willing public to fully engage whether those events are free and open or have a ticket sale and are commercial,” said Mr Cox.
There were also appeals for unity from Minister Deenihan and Minister Noonan
“I think there is very widespread participation by the artistic community in Limerick and, as I have said to the organisers, if there are events which should be included which have been omitted, then they should be included at this stage. There should be a kind of reserve list so that as many people as possible and as many organisations as possible are fully included because Limerick is unbeatable when we all pull together and I think we are pulling together now on this one,” Minister Noonan said.
Despite these exhortations, it now appears inevitable that Karl Wallace will depart as artistic director.
This represents another public relations problem for Limerick City of Culture so soon after the appointment of Ms Ryan as CEO without the job being advertised.
This was a decision which Mr Murray said was the right one but one which could have ben handled in a different way had time allowed.