CITY of Culture interim CEO Mike Fitzpatrick has been “strongly urged” by board members to press ahead with plans for spectacular street theatre event Royal de Luxe, which has never been performed to less than 400,00 people over three days.
At a meeting of the board last week, several members “argued strongly” for the inclusion of the event, which one source said would be “such a fantastic event to have in Limerick”.
Funding required to stage it must come from private sources and will not come out of the existing €6m State allocation, the Leader has learned.
Limerick could be transformed by “the world’s best pageantry company” if plans for the show come to fruition.
The €1.6m spectacular is believed to have been ‘tentatively green-lit’ by the board at a meeting last week.
City of Culture chairman Pat Cox said last week that a number of companies have promised “six figure sponsorships” of events.
“I am not in a position to release details. But I am in a position to say to you that we are looking at substantial six-figure sponsorships from more than one sponsor, something which was not available a few short weeks ago.
“It shows again Limerick’s determination to succeed,” Mr Cox said at an event in LSAD.
Royal de Luxe was a source of friction between now departed artistic director Karl Wallace, who saw it as the centrepiece of his programme, and the board.
Mr Wallace explained after his departure that the fee to be paid to Royal de Luxe – “without question the world’s best pageantry company” – was estimated at €315,000, with the remainder to be spent locally.
“This €1.2m was to be spent mostly on local employment and as a result [would be] of benefit to the local economy and the people of Limerick,” he said, bristling at arts minister Jimmy Deenihan’s description of it as a “puppet show”.
He said the show would be “an incredible community event, free to the public that takes place across the city”.
A spokesperson for City of Culture said that there would be no comment “on any discussions had at board level”.
“In the event that decisions relating to programming are finalised, they will be communicated in due course by interim head Mike Fitzpatrick.”
Mr Fitzpatrick said last week that “nothing is in or out in terms of the original programme”.
However, the Leader has established that Royal de Luxe has now been included in the updated programme, which requires a significant level of additional private funding.
Sources say it was “never off the table” but strong representation from some board members has increased support for it.
Speaking on Morning Ireland in January, City of Culture director Brian McEnery said that accommodating the act could have seen local arts and cultural groups lose out on funding. “That was a €1.8m spend over the course of one weekend, a third of our (€6m) allocation from government,” he said.
Pat Cox also added recently that cost was the major factor against the event going ahead.
“The exact words I used to the board was that the child in me would love to see this and the adult in me has some doubts about our ability to pay,” he said.
“The child has won to the extent we have kept it on an amber light. The project has not been decided yes or no because of the resources available to us, we can’t afford it.”
While the board never officially ruled it in or out, it now appears more likely than ever that it will go ahead.