Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Crunch talks to appoint new City of Culture boss

Fireworks over the Peace bridge in Londonderry, as the city celebrates becoming 2013 UK city of culture. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday December 31, 2012. See PA story ULSTER Culture. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Fireworks over the Peace Bridge as Derry-Londonderry celebrates becoming the UK's 2013 city of culture

Crunch talks are expected to get under way this week to discuss who will take over a key role in organising Londonderry's City of Culture.

No replacement has been lined up for Dermot McLaughlin whose shock departure as director with Derry City Council was announced last Friday.

But, with more than 300 events on the City of Culture calendar including massive gigs such as the Walled City Tattoo at Ebrington and Radio One's Big Weekend in the diary for next month, pressure will be mounting on the organisers.

A council spokeswoman said meetings would be held with the Strategic Investment Board (SIB) which is controlled by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister and oversaw Mr McLaughlin's appointment last year.

"Derry City Council and partners will meet to review and address the future operational requirements for the City of Culture project," she said.

Mr McLaughlin, who was seconded from the Temple Bar Cultural Trust (TBCT) in Dublin, will officially step down on April 30 - six months into his 12 month contract.

He cited personal reasons for the decision to resign and signaled an intention to resume his position with TBCT next month.

He has yet to speak publicly about his resignation but took to Twitter over the weekend to say: "I've made my contribution. I am delighted to have had the opportunity to help. Big job done here, big one to do at tbct".

Mr McLaughlin's future and that of TBCT is uncertain in the wake of a critical audit into its operations report by Dublin City Council.

It is hoped the year as City of Culture will generate an additional £500 million for the Derry economy.

They hope to cash in on the 1.3 million visitors expected to flock to events such as the all-Ireland Fleadh in August and the Return of Colmcille - a large scale public performance played out on the River Foyle.

Tensions have been growing behind the scenes between the Culture Company and Derry City Council. Last year council chief executive Sharon O'Connor created waves by demanding the marketing arm be brought under control of Derry City Council and a new appointment made to lead it.

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