Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Derry City of Culture clash an embarrassment

Londonderry has certainly packed a lot in to its year as UK City of Culture. Many of the events have been outstanding successes – for example the all-Ireland Fleadh or the Walled City Tattoo or the pop concerts – and it is a great coup that tomorrow sees the opening of the Turner Prize exhibition, the first time the event has been staged outside London.

For a small city this has been a very exciting year and all those involved deserve great credit for the programme they have drawn up and put on to date.

What a pity, then, that there has been an astonishing public row between two of the most senior figures involved in the delivery of the programme – the chief executives of Derry City Council, which funds the project, and the Culture Company. Details of the row on the airwaves of the local radio station – over the winding up of the Culture Company next March and allegations of a funding shortfall – are less important than the fact it took place.

It comes after a month which saw three board members of the Culture Company resign and almost on the eve of the start of the prestigious Turner Prize exhibition. It sours the atmosphere and creates tension where there should only be celebration. This newspaper strongly supported Derry's pitch for the City of Culture title and feels that the city has proven its credentials as a place with imagination and the ability to enjoy itself.

Yet lessons will have to be learned from some of the behind-the-scenes events. Of course it is not easy to stage a year-long programme of events which appeal to a broad cross-section of the population, especially given the lack of experience of running something of this magnitude. A management structure which involves a local authority and an arms-length delivery body has inherent weaknesses and funding is always going to be a contentious issue. It would be sad if an exciting year in the history of Derry ends up being overshadowed by rows which should have been avoided – or at least kept behind closed doors.

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