WITH due apologies to Samuel Beckett, the Limerick cultural community is currently on tenterhooks as a form of drama is played out that could only be described Waiting for Jimmy. The Jimmy in question – Mr Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – has declined to be drawn on the level of funding that will be delivered for Limerick City of Culture 2014, only a few short months before it is scheduled to begin.
Mr Deenihan will only volunteer that he thinks the budget will be “adequate”. This is hardly the word to set pulses racing in Limerick, in anticipation of the programme of events, but it also begs a question: adequate for what? Adequate to meet the lowest of local expectations? Or adequate for delivering a programme that can be, to quote the chairman of Limerick City of Culture Pat Cox speaking earlier this year, “the beginning of a Limerick Renaissance”?
Not for the first time, Mr Deenihan has expressed the view that he hopes “people embrace it in a very positive way”. We hope so too, but until such time as the funding is announced it will hard to fully embrace something so intangible. A lot of good work is going on in the background and committed people are doing their best to make the year a success, but they cannot produce miracles on a shoestring budget.
Local arts and culture administrators have been – in public, at least – remarkably patient thus far. Back in late August, the Leader’s Alan Owens reported on the frustrations some were experiencing in being unable to confirm bookings made in the hope that adequate – that word again – funding would be made available. After all, when Derry was given the accolade of UK City of Culture 2013 it had its funding in place more than two years before the first curtain rose.
This newspaper warmly welcomed the decision to give the Irish accolade to Limerick. We endorsed the point made by Minister Michael Noonan, among others, that the outside perception of Limerick should be one of more than just a city of sport. The cultural infrastructure Limerick already boasts, and the immeasurable benefits that a successful year as City of Culture would bring, would go a long way towards establishing us as a city of both sport and culture. That means the stakes are high, because the potential reward is so substantial.
Funding will be announced after the Budget, Mr Deenihan says. By which we hope he means within 48 hours, because the wait has already been unacceptably long.
We fervently hope that when the figures are finally revealed, the Minister’s definition of “adequate” will chime with that of the many who have already bought into the City of Culture idea.
If it does not, we can assure him that we will be giving a prominent platform to the considered views of the cultural community in the city and county.
No question, City of Culture has been a good idea. But we have history in Limerick of great expectations being dashed. If it turns out that we have been promised more than the Government sees fit to deliver, there will be understandable frustration – and anger too.
But let’s be optimistic. Right now, we’re just Waiting for Jimmy. Let’s hope he delivers.