Performance artists and some gifted musicians were on hand to help to launch Limerick City of Culture 2014 at the splendid former St John’s Church this week, but amid the fanfare there were emotions in the air which left an equally strong impression. There was pride in the knowledge that our cultural community has so much to offer. There was excitement over the big stage that beckons for so many. Most of all, there was a strong sense of goodwill. Here was compelling evidence of the desire among Limerick people to rally behind a cause which has the potential to entertain and stimulate us for 12 months, bringing many visitors and prestige to our city, as well as creating a legacy that can endure.
The idea for City of Culture has its genesis in the belief of many that Limerick needs a ‘rebranding’ exercise. Few would deny that the serious crime problem which portrayed the city in such a negative light for too long created an image problem. Many of those who besmirched Limerick’s good name are behind prison walls and once they are released they will find that the city has moved on. Still, the recovery is an ongoing process and outside perceptions can be terribly slow to change. That is one of several reasons why the designation as City of Culture was widely welcomed.
Any honest marketing guru will tell you that untold millions can be spent rebranding something, but you’re wasting your money if there isn’t a quality product behind the sales pitch; the public are rarely hoodwinked for long by a slick message. Limerick has long had the cultural infrastructure and the talent to make a success of a venture such as this, but a satisfactory budget was required to make it happen.
This week’s launch saw a terrific list of events being unveiled, with more to follow. More than 100 local groups who applied for funding were successful and details of the highlights coming our way can be found on pages 4-5. We are pleased and proud that as the Limerick Leader prepares to celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2014, an exhibition of photographs from our unrivalled archive will be part of the City of Culture programme.
All kinds of cultural attractions will combine to make Limerick a must-visit destination next year but if the year is to fulfil its potential, then mass participation by local people will be essential. Culture, as some pointed out this week, is not just for the elite and the thoughtful programme reflects a desire to get everyone along to at least a few of the year’s highlights. The Leader is determined to play its part in ensuring Limerick puts its best foot forward in 2014. We hope our readers will also get behind the year in a big way.