AFTER much speculation and almost exactly six months to the day since Minister Jimmy Deenihan officially announced Limerick’s designation as National City of Culture in 2014, the team to lead the project has been unveiled.
Former European Parliament president and Freeman of Limerick Pat Cox is to chair the governing group and will be joined on the body by fellow Freemen of the city Paul O’Connell and Riverdance composer Bill Whelan.
Mr Whelan immediately signalled the strong possibility that Riverdance will be performed in Limerick as part of one of the major events for the year, the draft programme for which is expected to be unveiled in June.
“It would be absolutely my hope that that will happen and I have already approached my partners in Riverdance on this and I think we will make this happen,” he said.
City manager Conn Murray personally selected the trio, declaring that they were “chosen to represent the areas within which they have excelled nationally and internationally that symbolise a broad approach to the understanding of culture”.
Mr Cox said the aim of the City of Culture programme, which is hoped will be a precursor to Limerick’s application to be European Capital of Culture in the coming years, seeks to deliver a programme of cultural events and engagement for 2014, but also a programme which has a longer term positive impact.
“I think it is a big challenge, I think the city and county and the resources of Limerick are up to meeting the challenge, and I think it is a very exciting opportunity,” he said.
“I got involved with this because of a deep sense of pride of place, and we have the opportunity in 2014 for a re-birth of the country’s oldest city into a new entity, for a new time.
“All eyes will be on Limerick and that means we get a chance to do something unique, which is to set the template, and we hope to set the bar high.
“We are confident that on reasonable, but also reasonably modest financial resources, that this is a project that might have a small pocket, but a big heart and will have a big impact.”
It was also confirmed that Arts Council director Orlaith McBride has accepted a position on the driving group, which will include people from the local business and arts community, while a salaried post of artistic director is to be advertised in the coming weeks.