FORMER artistic director of Limerick City of Culture Karl Wallace has strongly criticised “unfounded and at best ill-informed” discussion of a spectacular street theatre event that caused friction between him and the board.
Mr Wallace rejected the notion of the Royal de Luxe project, intended to be the centrepiece of his programme and which has never been performed to less than 400,000 people over three days, as a being “puppet show”.
“The newspaper articles about Royal de Luxe are worrying. Has no-one the time to properly investigate instead of throwing out soundbites that are unfounded and at best ill-informed?” he questioned.
“Royal de Luxe are without question the world’s best pagentry company. The fee for their performance in Limerick was estimated at €315,000 with the remainder, such as health and safety officers, technicians, site managers, local performers etc all costing the remainder, approx €1.2m.
“This €1.2m was to be spent mostly on local employment and as a result, of benefit to the local economy and the people of Limerick.”
The Londoner, who has remined largely silent since stepping down, was reacting to arts minister Jimmy Deenihan, who referred to the event as a “puppet show” on RTE’s This Week radio programme.
“I did see that there was one event that was costing something like €1.6 or €1.8 mentioned, that, I think the manager or the board refused to sanction. I think it was some puppet show, some major international event that they refused to sanction,” said the minister.
The issue of Royal de Luxe was made public by John Greenwood, Professional Limerick Artists Network, who called for the board to “honour the artistic programme put in place by Karl Wallace, including the internationally acclaimed Royal de Luxe”.
But speaking on Morning Ireland, 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.
However, Mr Wallace has attempted to make “absolutely clear” that the event was never part of the State’s allocation.
“We wanted to ensure that the €6m went first and foremost to local projects,” he said. “The remaining €2.6m was earmarked for international events coming into the city (not including RDL). Royal de Luxe remained in a second phase of projects waiting for private funding - at the last count these projects amount to approx €3.2m and include more money for local projects too. This money is yet to be raised and therefore Royal de Luxe is a project currently on hold.”
Mr Wallace said that the project was “quite simply an incredible community event, free to the public that takes place across the city”.
“They did a few site visits and their route was to include St Mary’s and Moyross and work within those communities, there was so much more to plan but I fear the media speculation and its belittling of such an incredible event may jeopardise it from taking place,” he added.
Board chairman Pat Cox said cost was the major factor.
“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 on the resources available to us, we can’t afford it.”