Cork City Council votes to save Cork Film Festival
Members approve emergency loan of €200,000 to avert financial collapse
Members of Cork City Council have voted to provide an emergency loan of €200,000 to save Cork Film Festival. File photograph: Regis Duvignau/Reuters
Councillors voted by 18 votes to 8 to support the rescue package after debating a report by Cork City Council’s deputy chief executive Pat Ledwidge, which warned the festival was at “an immediate risk of going into receivership”.
In the report, Mr Ledwidge said the festival, now in its 61st year, brings an annual economic benefit to the city in excess of €2.5 million.
“The festival board has requested the city council to assist the organisation with a loan to deal with . . . difficulties, which have come about due to a combination of factors,” Mr Ledwidge said.
He said the restructuring of the festival in 2013 had demanded a more ambitious programme, especially in the run-up to its 60th anniversary in 2015.
He said the festival’s board had to deal with several financial commitments arising from the restructuring.
The loss of a headline sponsor after the 2012 event had also proven problematic for the festival.
However, the report said that, despite these difficulties, last year’s anniversary festival had proved a success, with an increased profile thanks to RTÉ’s involvement as a media partner.
The report said the 2015 festival had achieved a number of targets, including an increased audience of 22,000, box office revenue of €145,000 and sold-out Irish premiere events at Cork Opera House.
He warned of reputational damage to Cork if the festival was allowed to collapse.
“The festival leverages direct annual funding of approximately €200,000 - with the Arts Council being its main funder - which will be lost to the city if the festival were to close.”
A strategic plan, involving a €200,000 loan repayable over eight years at €25,000 per annum, has been drawn up by council officials in consultation with the festival’s board.
The plan provides for a reduction in the festival’s costs and a reduced number of showings.
It will also give the council access to festival’s accounts and allow for councillors and city officials to sit on its board.
Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Chris O’Leary, welcomed the councillors’ decision to save the festival, saying he believed the event was worth saving.
“We are not writing off anything . . . we are loaning money that will be repaid to us again.
“We have asked for guarantees and we have got those and we have seen the books and the plans so we are not going into this blindly,” he said.
Fianna Fáil councillor Kenneth O’Flynn, who voted against the rescue loan, said the vote was setting a dangerous precedent, as other festivals in financial difficulties will now turn to the council for a bailout.