Sharon O'Connor said funds would be used only for the City of Culture project

Derry-Londonderry City of Culture plans in turmoil

Gareth Harris, Issue 112/11, p13, 01.11.2012
Event's marketing budget taken over by council
Preparations for Derry-Londonderry City of Culture 2013 have been thrown into disarray after Derry City Council took over the marketing budget of Culture Company, the arm’s-length body established to oversee the festival.

The council stepped in after chief executive Sharon O’Connor reportedly said that Culture Company’s marketing division was “not performing”.

“It is important to point out that I am personally responsible for making sure that the £12.6m the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) has provided for the City of Culture project is delivered per the letter of offer it provided to Derry City Council,” said O’Connor.

“By realigning services, we can maximise the marketing capacity for the promotion of Derry-Londonderry during 2013 and beyond.”

Culture Company’s director of communications, Garbhan Downey, has subsequently been suspended and is reportedly seeking legal advice.

In a statement, he said: “This is happening because we are refusing to allow the council to spend our budget on non-City of Culture projects.”

O’Connor said, however, that it was “factually incorrect” to suggest that “finances would be used in a way other than those anticipated by DCAL for the benefit of the City of Culture”.

Meanwhile, Arts Council Northern Ireland has announced that it will invest £1m in the year-long initiative.

There will be about 150 events, including a major retrospective devoted to the local Turner Prize-nominated artist Willie Doherty.