Major economic assessment of City of Culture was ‘rigorous’

Alan Owens


Alan Owens

Former City of Culture director Mike Fitzpatrick, now leading Limerick's bid for European Capital of Culture in 2020. Picture: Sean Curtin
FORMER City of Culture director Mike Fitzpatrick – now spearheading Limerick’s EU 2020 bid – has said that audited accounts for 2014 have been signed off by the board and will be released “soon”.

FORMER City of Culture director Mike Fitzpatrick – now spearheading Limerick’s EU 2020 bid – has said that audited accounts for 2014 have been signed off by the board and will be released “soon”.

This comes as top line figures for City of Culture were detailed in a major economic impact assessment of the year, compiled by Grant Thornton Ireland, which was released this week. It shows that the year-long programme generated almost €44m from over 3,000 events, attracting an audience of 1.8m people.

The 35 page report reveals that the total programme cost was €12m – a €7.5m investment by the State, €1.5m more than expected, plus €4.5m in “additional funding”.

Of this, the total direct cost to the company set up to run the year was €10.9m, plus over €1.1m in event specific expenditure, which included in-kind sponsorship and grants and was not covered by Limerick National City of Culture Ltd.

The report reveals that the €12m invested in the cultural services sector generated a minimum €13.4m benefit to the regional and national economy, while almost €30m was spent by people attending City of Culture events. Grant Thornton declare this to be a “prudent estimate”. It was anticipated that €17m would be generated before the year started, while the anticipated audience was estimated at 920,000.

In addition, an estimated €560,000 was generated by hotels during key event periods. A further analysis found that the year-long programme generated a €13m cumulative advertising value, based on a total of 4,887 press and broadcast articles in 2014.

A separate social impact study reveals that 364 new local partnerships were formed and 2,504 Limerick artists were employed in various projects in 2014.

In all, 156 projects took place - 3,000 performances or exhibitions – at a total cost of €9.4m. The total programme spend accounted for 86% of total expenditure, while wages made up 8% and promotion and marketing made up 6% – although an additional €720,000 in-kind support received supplemented this area, at least half of which was media sponsorship.

The report concludes that City of Culture “provided Limerick with some invaluable experience and greater credentials that could act as an advantage when bidding for the European Capital of Culture 2020 title”.

Welcoming the findings, City of Culture board chairman Pat Cox said the “ambitious project” had “exceeded our expectations and the objectives”.

“I’m confident that Limerick is now being looked at locally, nationally and internationally with a fresh eye after undergoing its very own renaissance as a result of this successful designation,” he said.

“I’m also confident that the continuation of various cultural activities and community involvement is already generating a long term positive effect on the city and I wholeheartedly welcome this. Limerick can take confidence from it and can do so much more.”

Mike Fitzpatrick said it was “a very good audit and we have gone through a very rigorous process”.

“The metrics are very useful for the planning and evaluation from here on in. At least we have some baseline data now and that mapping is really important, and it sets a footing for 2020, indeed in any measuring of future activities in Limerick,” he added. Mr Fitzpatrick said audited accounts for 2014 had been approved by the board and that they would be presented to the Companies Registration Office “quite soon”.

A spokesperson for the local authority said that the board approved the draft statutory financial statements for the period from incorporation to 31 December 2014 at its meeting on Friday 12 June, subject to certain modifications in respect of the implementation of the Companies Act 2014.

“It is likely that these modifications will be made in the coming weeks and the draft statutory financial statements then finalised and made ready for filing with the Companies Registration Office,” she added.