City of Culture funding gives ‘certainty’ to year

Alan Owens


Alan Owens

Funding secured: Bill Whelan, Pat Cox and Paul O'Connell - City of Culture board members
LIMERICK City of Culture chairman Pat Cox said this week that the allocation of €6m in the Budget to the programme would give “certainty” to the year of culture in 2014.

LIMERICK City of Culture chairman Pat Cox said this week that the allocation of €6m in the Budget to the programme would give “certainty” to the year of culture in 2014.

Huge sighs of relief greeted the announcement by Government this week that the headline figure allocated to Limerick’s stint as City of Culture, is, as city arts officer Sheila Deegan put it, “fantastic” and would “certainly allow some of the ambition to be realised”.

This will supplement any potential Arts Council funding for organisations in the region as normally applied for and pretty much “matches” the figure that was sought from Government by the City of Culture team, according to well placed sources.

Mr Cox said dialogue with private business sources had already started with a view to supplementing the figure, and the Budget allocation was a “serious manifestation of public commitment” and he would now try to “leverage what we have”.

The programme for the year will be launched on November 4, and while Mr Cox refused to be drawn on specific details of the plan, he said there had been a “great flood of local applications”, as well as plans for large scale events.

“I think people are going to find and delight in some wonderful, Limerick based, bottom up programmes,” he said. “And we are hoping - again subject to negotiating the fine details - to have a small number of external acts, that have never been seen in Ireland before.”

City of Culture artistic director Karl Wallace said it was a “long awaited day” that “signalled confidence in the cultural output that Limerick will be able to offer next year”.

“We had a number of different scenarios that we were looking at, so to have that confirmation and that confidence is great, so now we can get on with the job, which is really fantastic.”

It has been a long road to this point; arts minister Jimmy Deenihan made the announcement that Limerick would be given the first such national culture designation back in July 2012, at a ceremony heavy on platitudes, but light on detail.

The idea was a fantastic one, the problem was figuring out how to pay for it, given the nation is experiencing, as Pat Cox noted, “an exceptionally tight and difficult budgetary period”.

There were genuine fears, as the process continued, that the budget would simply not meet the scale of ambition for the project, which got serious when former European Parliament president Cox, Riverdance’s Bill Whelan, Munster’s Paul O’Connell – and particularly – new Limerick manager, Conn Murray, got involved in January.

From then, the programme had a focus, helped with the appointment of Mr Wallace as artistic director in April.

The artistic director noted that other cities in a similar position would ideally be given a four year lead in time to programme such a year.

“Limerick has been given a tough job, but one that we are certainly up for the challenge for, which is that our lead in time is very, very short,” he said.

“We are producing an exciting programme which will be 60% produced by cultural groups locally, there will be a huge offering of cultural activity and we are inviting people to come and see that from outside Limerick,” he said.

“There will also be an international programme which will be revealed, in part, on November 4.”

Mr Cox said that he was “very pleased to have the certainty that the budget allocation gives us in terms of planning and launching our programme”.

He noted that the €6m allocation represents “the biggest single expenditure on the cultural life of this city and the region, in its history”.