Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

City of Culture tensions 'must end'

Derry City Council and the Culture Company have been embroiled in a dispute about marketing

Tensions between the organisers of Derry's UK City of Culture celebrations have to end, MP Mark Durkan said.

Derry City Council and the Culture Company have been embroiled in a dispute about marketing, highlighted in an exchange of emails between their senior officials.

The messages show the council at times lost confidence in the company, describing its marketing as sub-standard.

SDLP Foyle MP Mr Durkan said: "The success of the year means that there will be new issues, ideas, options and ambitions to be discussed and determined. Positive public debate on these should be embraced, not evaded.

"The important thing is to conduct it as positive, purposeful discussion recruiting the insights and talents of culture activists and other civic interests and not portrayed as turf-squaring between different authorities and agencies."

Derry is expected to host 30,000 people for this year's Halloween festivities. Six hundred local performers are to take part in tonight's finale, with choreography from the Curious Carnival of the Lost Souls Parade. A fireworks display will illuminate the skyline over the River Foyle.

The city has hosted high-profile events like BBC Radio One's Big Weekend and the prestigious Turner Prize for modern art will be awarded there in December, the first time the competition has been held outside England.

Despite overseeing a packed schedule of events, the culture company has been in dispute with the council over an alleged funding shortfall.

The company will be wound up at the end of March next year, instead of the end of June, because it felt it had been left with no other option by the council.

Its chief executive, Shona McCarthy, has said the City of Culture's marketing has been fraught with difficulties.

Mr Durkan said: "Given all the successes and highlights of this year, it is obvious that not only has somebody somewhere done something right but a lot of people have done a lot of things right.

"We also need to marshal that same talent, work and will for the remainder of this special year."

A spokesperson for Culture Company 2013 said: "The important thing to focus on is that Derry-Londonderry's UK City of Culture 2013 project is already being hailed as an overwhelming success.

"To deliver a project of the scale of the first ever UK City of Culture with no pre-existing blueprint and such a tight lead-in time was always going to be very challenging and quite naturally tensions were bound to arise.

"The fact remains that the Derry-Londonderry 2013 programme has been, and is continuing to be, delivered to the very highest standards as evidenced last week by the launch of what has been hailed as the most impressive Turner Prize exhibition ever."

He said the Turner Prize has received more quality national coverage than any previous event, a reflection of the marketing and communications efforts.

"Successes like this are only achieved by harnessing the energy and commitment of all stakeholders in a collegiate fashion," he added.

"The achievements of 2013 are reflective of the Herculean efforts of all the city partners working in a strategic partnership to deliver an amazing year for the people of the city."

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