Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Derry's culture year faces crisis as key events are pulled

Culture Company chief executive Shona McCarthy
Culture Company chief executive Shona McCarthy

A flagship project for the UK City Of Culture year is in chaos after key elements were pulled from the 2013 programme.

One of two main productions of the revived Field Day Theatre Company has stalled indefinitely.

Meanwhile, the wholesale relocation of the Field Day archive from Dublin’s National Library of Ireland to Londonderry has been scrapped. Both events were due to take place this month.

Field Day founder, renowned actor Stephen Rea, was due to direct Clare Dwyer Hogg’s play Thirsty Dust at the Playhouse Theatre over 10 nights from May 30. However, Mr Rea’s agent in London confirmed yesterday that he is currently filming on location in Colombia, South America.

A spokeswoman for the Playhouse Theatre confirmed last night: “The Field Day performance of Thirsty Dust at the Playhouse has been postponed.

“However, we look forward to rescheduling a date as part of a long and fruitful partnership between the Playhouse and Field Day that will stretch long into the future, building a lasting legacy from Derry-Londonderry’s year as UK City of Culture.”

The shock news was compounded when Field Day’s Dublin-based company manager Ciaran Deane confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph that a major archive exhibition planned for the Verbal Arts Centre “has been cancelled also”.

The exhibition was to run at the centre until September and was to include original Basil Blackshaw paintings for Field Day’s plays throughout the 1980s.

It was also expected to feature theatre programmes, BBC documentary footage, unpublished photographs of plays and rehearsals, Press cuttings, audio interviews and taped performances, as well as displays of Field Day’s publishing projects.

Mr Deane said that remaining Field Day projects — involving a different play, a website allowing free access to the Field Day archive and a special 2013 edition of the Field Day Review — “are still alive for now”.

Mr Deane refused to be drawn on the reasons behind the dramatic changes to the high-profile Field Day programme — a centrepiece of the City Of Culture and its main theatrical element.

“I am not prepared to make any other comment, so please do not pursue this story any further with me,” he said, adding: “I appreciate your interest.”

Sponsorship and spending

MAY 2010

Derry submits its full and final bid to become UK City of Culture. Contained in the bid is an ambitious target to attract £2.5m in corporate sponsorship.

APRIL 2011

Shona McCarthy takes up her post as chief executive of the Culture Company and immediately revises corporate sponsorship aspirations down to £1m, due to the recession.

APRIL 2012

The Northern Ireland Executive agrees funding package of £12.6m for the City of Culture year, with millions coming from other public sector sources.

JANUARY 2013

The City of Culture programme gets under way with events throughout the year set to cost in the region of £14.5m.

APRIL 2013

So far, £436,000 in cash has been achieved in direct corporate sponsorship, although a deficit of £611,000 emerges. Eight applications have been lodged with public bodies, government departments and trusts for funding.

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