Arts chief takes up Culture post

Graeme Farrow.

Graeme Farrow.

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The former Director of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, Graeme Farrow, has just stepped down from his job of six years to take up his new post as Executive Programmer for Partnerships with Derry’s City of Culture 2013 team.

He said the City of Culture job was one he “simply could’t resist.”

Sunderland-born Farrow said he felt compelled to take up the Derry job because it was a “very different challenge.”

“It’s an opportunity to actually create something in Derry that leaves a legacy and helps the city grow, particularly within the cultural sector, which is a different proposition and a very compelling one that I just found irresistible,” he said.

Originally from Sunderland in north east England, Farrow moved to Northern Ireland 18 years ago.

He joined the Belfast Festival team in 1999, and became its director in 2006.

He steered it through the funding crisis of 2007 when it seemed the festival was doomed.

It has since expanded and rising attendances make it one of the must-see arts festivals in Britain and Ireland. Or, as he puts it, “it’s in a really good place”.

“I’m leaving feeling satisfied that myself and my team achieved something quite special in Belfast and put the festival on a really good footing, both domestically and internationally,” he said.

But leaving now means missing next year’s 50th anniversary. Is he sad that he won’t be involved?

“Not really,” he replied. “I think with festivals every five years or so you need to have a change at the top and it just so happened that the right time for me to leave, to go to a new challenge, was in the 49th year.

“But I’m not getting hung up on numbers.

“Huge as 50 is, it just felt like a good time to hand over to somebody else and I think festivals have a Dr Who type of characteristic, and every now and again somebody needs to regenerate.”

He admitted it will be “strange” not to be involved when the Belfast festival opens in October.

“It’s a strange feeling because I know the work I’ve put in for 2011 I won’t see, as I’m not around in October.

“But at the same time I’m looking forward to attending the festival events as a customer and guest.”