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Sunday 22 April 2018

Too little and too late? Spending and timing could destroy Limerick's dream

Patricia Ryan, CEO of Limerick City Of Culture, with Dave McPhillips and Danny O Reilly of The Coronas, pictured at The Milk Market for the official Launch of Limerick City Of Culture NYE.
Patricia Ryan, CEO of Limerick City Of Culture, with Dave McPhillips and Danny O Reilly of The Coronas, pictured at The Milk Market for the official Launch of Limerick City Of Culture NYE.

Sophie Gorman

Liverpool had five years to prepare for its turn as city of culture

TONIGHT Limerick will begin its tenure as City of Culture with a big New Year's Eve party, and I for one am more anxious than excited.

This wonderful opportunity to transform the national and international perception of Limerick should be grasped with both hands.

But the odds have been stacked against its cultural regeneration. The year has been beset by problems before it has even begun, the biggest of which being that they were only told their budget on October 15, 2013. Most international festivals have at least a year run-in time.

The team in Limerick had just over two months to plan. And, comparatively, it is a far from lavish budget, being just a quarter of the €25m they had to spend in Derry this year.

There has been some controversy surrounding the process used in the appointment of Patricia Ryan to the top position of chief executive.

But questions now have to be asked -- not about the politics of the appointment, but about the amount still being finalised just before it is set to launch.

The programme for the first quarter was being finalised just days before the big New Year's Eve launch, with venues and locations added for many events only last week.

A city of culture is intended to create both national and international tourism, but visitors might not even know the specific details of the events they want to travel to see. How can they book flights or hotels?

This should be a year-long event, making Limerick a destination city. It offers so much possibility for cultural tourism and the investment of €6m should be rewarded with significant economic impact. Just look at how Derry's international image has been transformed, the investment repaid many times over.

But Limerick has been fighting an uphill battle. The small team of cultural experts gathered to create the programme had just two weeks after getting their financial figure before the launch of their highlights programme at the start of November.

That they have lined up so many Irish premieres in this short time is in itself very impressive.

Liverpool had five years to prepare for its turn as city of culture, Derry had almost three years.

Cultural events require immense pre-planning and pre-scheduling, with the infrastructure needing to be set up and finalised months in advance.

Instead, here we are at the New Year's Eve grand opening and there are still a number of fundamental pieces being put in place.

This is Limerick's big chance to reinvent itself. But you have to wonder if it will be squandered.

Irish Independent

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