£4.5m?! Just support city’s existing venues!

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Sir,

I would be grateful if you could publish the following points as I cannot understand why people are not screaming from the rooftops “STOP THE INSANITY”.

Leaving aside the issue of value for money £4.5 million for a temporary structure , the decision to build a temporary structure at Ebrington raises a number of issues:

1. At £4.5 million for 45 events in 2013 which hopes to attract between two to four thousand, this represents between £25 and £50 per person per event and this is only for the space. If we look at the cost of the performers, the staff, the security, electricity it is easy to imagine that this will add up to a total subsidy of up to £100 per person per event. Is this the best way to spend public money?

2. What impact will there be on existing venues that have created the cultural output in the City throughout all the difficult years? Will it be harder or easier for these venues to remain commercially viable when there is going to be one heavily subsidized event after another in Ebrington sucking up whatever little disposable cash there is in the city?

3. We are told we need to spend this money on a temporary structure because of time constraints. Does nobody remember the capital spend made at Prehen to make the Prehen fields suitable for public performance?

4. If we add up the capacity of St Columbs Hall, The Millenium Forum, The Nerve Centre, An Culturlann, The Playhouse, The Verbal Arts Centre, Sandinos, Peadar O Donnells, Masons, The Collon Bar, Da Vinci’s, The City Hotel, The Tower Hotel, The Everglades, The Beechhill Hotel, The Waterfoot Hotel and a host of smaller venues we get several thousand. Can anybody tell me that having all of these venues filled two or three night a week wouldn’t soak up the entire entertainment spend of the city?

5. If there is some requirement to have a single venue capable of concerts of several thousand why was the work not started long before now and why did we hang ourselves with such a requirement in the first place?

We all know that we would like to have an Odyssey-type venue but can we demonstrate that it can be made viable? Ask anybody who works for an organization who tries to organise a national or regional event in Derry what resistance they experience from people based in the 20 mile circumference of Belfast.

6. Would spending that money refurbing the Budget Superstore on the Strand Rd opposite Fort George not have made a better spend of £4.5m?

7. The impending disaster of the Pixie Lott concert, as ticket sales were simply not happening, was only averted by the donation of an “unknown benefactor”.

8. There seems to be a great confusion between the role of Ilex and that of the Culture Company and the City Council. Ilex’s responsibility is to create a strategic proposal for the future regeneration of the city, which includes utilizing the vacated army bases of Fort George( remember that place) and Ebrington. The obsession with Ebrington (which is indeed an excellent asset) and the desire to turn it into an Arts and Culture Hub flies in the face of all the advice given over the past five years by those who have been involved in the delivery of our culture. Let me spell it out - VENUES ARE NOT THE ISSUE , WE CANNOT FILL OUR EXISTING VENUES. THE DIFFICULTY FOR ALL THE EXISTING CULTURE PROVIDERS IN DERRY IS HOW CAN WE GET SUFFICIENT PUNTERS TO BUY TICKETS SO WE CAN MAKE EVENTS VIABLE.

9. As an urgent priority we need to address the issue of how do we get money into existing cultural providers both public and private so that they can have a full calendar of events IN THE CITY.

Yours,

Peter J Mackenzie,

Café Blooms on the Walls,

Stable Lane off Bishop Street,

Londonderry