Saturday 24 February 2018

Embattled Limerick festival hiring guru to market events

Patricia Ryan
Patricia Ryan
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

LIMERICK City of Culture chiefs are hiring a communications manager in the wake of the public relations nightmare that marred the opening weeks of the event.

The €6million taxpayer funded festival has been blighted in controversy since it was first announced, and bitter infighting led to the resignation of its chief executive and artistic director.

Now the festival's interim head, Mike Fitzpatrick, has decided to overhaul the event's marketing and communications strategy and a public tender has been issued.

The eight-month contract will see a new manager charged with promoting the arts event until the end of the year.

It is unclear how much the contract will be worth, but public bodies are required to advertise for contracts worth in excess of €50,000.

The new communications manager is expected to be in place by March and will face an uphill battle restoring the public's confidence in the embattled festival.

Former CEO Patricia Ryan, pictured, who previously worked for festival chairman Pat Cox, was forced to resign in January amid accusation of cronyism after it emerged she was appointed to her €120,000 role without a tender process.

Her decision to step down was sparked by the resignation of artistic director Karl Wallace and two other senior programmers.

Mr Wallace claimed his team had been "sidelined" by Ms Ryan and his position became untenable because of a breakdown in communications.

A series of rows followed the resignations and public meetings descended into chaos.

A City of Culture insider insisted the tender was not sought to avoid another public relations meltdown but rather because of a lack of 'in-house resources' to deal with promoting the festival.

Labour City Councillor Tom Short welcomed the tender process for the new role, but said it was a "tragedy" it took so long for the festival board to implement a proper marketing strategy.

He said: "The success of the festival depends on how you market it and how you put it out there. The tragedy is this is happening in February and not earlier."

A festival spokesman said the new interim head had carefully evaluated the festival's organisation and decided a marketing manager was needed to oversee the final months of the project.

Irish Independent

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