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Belfast's Grand Opera House blow as new chair leaving for top Arts Council job

By Claire McNeilly

Belfast's Grand Opera House has been dealt a blow after its newly appointed chairman said he was standing down just weeks after assuming the role.

John Edmund, the man appointed to succeed Stephen Prenter, and who has to date chaired one meeting, is to quit the post after being hired by the Arts Council.

It is understood that all Grand Opera House (GOH) Trust members received an email explaining that the consultant and marketing professional would be leaving in the new year.

Mr Edmund was recently named the new chairman of the board of the Arts Council, from which the GOH receives the bulk of its funding.

The Department for Communities has, however, given him permission to remain at the GOH until the end of February to allow the organisation to find a suitable replacement.

Sources at the GOH said they would be very sorry to see Mr Edmund go after such a short period of time, describing him as "a great talent".

A Department for Communities spokesman said: "(Mr Edmund) has been appointed as chairman of the Arts Council with effect from January 1, 2017.

"This is on condition that he resigns his current post as chairman of the GOH.

"The minister has allowed a period of up to two months for Mr Edmund to make the necessary arrangements.

"This is a reasonable period to allow responsibilities to be transferred.

"In the meantime, Mr Edmund will use discretion when dealing with any matters involving the GOH.

"The appointment was made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments for NI's Code of Practice for Ministerial Public Appointments."

Last week, Arts Minister Paul Givan said Mr Edmund would be an asset to his new employer.

"I am pleased to make this appointment as Mr Edmund brings a wealth of skills and experience, as well as a passion for the arts, to the board," he added.

"The organisation plays a crucial role in encouraging our society to access and to become fully involved in arts and culture, and I am confident that Mr Edmund will lead the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in progressing and developing the arts."

Mr Edmund is a former worldwide chairman of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and vice-president of the European Marketing Confederation.

As well as travel and expenses, the Arts Council job attracts £10,000 for a minimum 40-day year - around £250 a day.

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