A serious rift between the CEOs of Derry City Council and the Culture Company was today laid bare on BBC radio Foyle after the Culture Company’s CEO, Shona McCarthy said she was not consulted about the decision to wind the company up three months early. Ms McCarthy said the decision was made by the council.
However the council CEO, Sharon O’Connor said the board of the Culture Company and its chairman, Martin Bradley, were aware of the decision and that there was a unanimous decision of the board to wind up the company.
The council’s chief executive also said the council had to set aside £1.5m of ratepaters’ money to make sure the full cultural programme could be delivered and that a “substantial deficit” was likely.
Culture Company CEO Shona McCarthy described the wind-up decision as “a slap in the face”.
The public rift emerged after a board member who resigned, Ana Leddy, told the board’s chair, in a letter that she felt the decision would damage the ‘legacy’ work being done to maximise the impact of 2013. Ms McCarthy also claimed the company had not been consulted about legacy plans.
This was contradicted by Ms O’Connor who said dozens of meetings had been held and there had been Culture Company participation.
She also said the council had to commit £1.5m to ensure the full delivery of the programme and that the City of Culture programme would likely have a substantial deficit.
Ana Leddy resigned her position on Friday because she did not want to be part of a board that failed to challenge controversial decisions.
Primarily, she was concerned at the decision by Derry City Council to wind up the Culture Company early and make staff redundant despite the need to “copper fasten” the legacy of 2013.
Her resignation letter said: “I cannot be part of a board which doesn’t challenge this action.”
Fellow board member Claire McColgan stepped down last week, and Anna Cutler left the board earlier this month. Ms Cutler, from the Tate Gallery did not explain her move publicly, but the Culture Company said she had resigned for personal reasons.
Claire McColgan oversaw Liverpool’s legacy after its year as European Capital of Culture in 2008.
In her letter to the Culture Company board chairman, Martin Bradley, Ms Leddy, who is a former head of radio at RTÉ and editor of BBC Radio Foyle, said: “By any measure this has been an outstanding year for Derry. From events like the opening Sons and Daughters concert, the Return of Colmcille and the Fleadh to the countless artistic and community events and projects which have lit up the city and raised the sights of its citizens since the start of the year.
“With Lumiere and the Turner Prize still to come it is by no means over.
“From its inception the cultural programme was ambitious to say the least. Its ongoing successful delivery has been due to the huge level of commitment, talent and skill of Chief Executive Shona McCarthy and her small team which has punched way above its weight. The financial challenges have been massive due to the economic climate, but again the team has managed to meet those challenges against all the odds.
“At a time when the legacy of the City of Culture year needs to be copper-fastened to ensure the social and economic transformation of Derry, the company is to be wound up early and the staff made redundant.
“I am deeply concerned about the impact this will have on the project as we move from delivery mode to legacy - and the skills and creative leadership which will be lost to the city and indeed Northern Ireland. Furthermore I feel most strongly that this is no way to thank the people who have done such a brilliant job for us and who gave up employment elsewhere for fixed term contracts in Derry - which will now end prematurely.
“I cannot be part of a board which doesn’t challenge this action. It is therefore with deep regret that I am tendering my resignation to the board of the Culture Company.”