UK City of Culture tensions revealed

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Media captionThe UK City of Culture year budget is understood to be around £20m

Emails obtained by the BBC have revealed tensions between two chief executives involved in Londonderry's UK City of Culture celebrations.

The messages show how relations deteriorated throughout the year between Derry City Council and the Culture Company.

Council chief executive Sharon O'Connor and Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Culture Company, were embroiled in a dispute mainly around marketing.

Both have declined to comment.

The emails show the council at times lost confidence in the Culture Company, describing their marketing as "sub standard".


They also show that staff in the Culture Company felt they were being "undermined and subjected to sustained negativity".

One part of an email from Derry City Council asked Culture Company staff to "grit their teeth and bear it".

On the eve of the City of Culture launch, Sharon O'Connor wrote to Shona McCarthy: "This whole project is in jeopardy and deflecting blame is not helpful.

"We really need for you to drop the us and them attitude and get with the team Derry approach."

In another part of the document, Sharon O'Connor says to Shona McCarthy: "You told me there was no need for panic with regard the state of planning for 2013. Now might be a very good time to panic."

In an email from Shona McCarthy to another Culture Company colleague, she says: "Sharon is now making her move to take over our marketing team and budget. This is not what was agreed, does not make sense and won't work."

In a separate email, Shona McCarthy says: "The move is driven by the town clerk's belief that she is a marketing expert.

Image caption Chief Executive and Town Clerk of Derry City Council Sharon O'Connor

"The town clerk has tried to push through this takeover bid by constant discrediting of the culture company marketing effort.

"It is about Derry City Council pushing through a flawed plan and taking the Culture Company's budget to do it."

The UK City of Culture year budget is understood to be around £20m.

It is understood that the Culture Company claims the council had pledged £14m but will have only paid just over £4m.

The company reckons it received £3.7m and £500,000 for marketing rather than the £14m pledged in the bid document.

It is understood the Culture Company may have made the decision to wind up three months earlier than expected because it felt it had been left with no other option by the council.

The company will be wound up at the end of March 2014 instead of the end of June.

Three members of the board of the Culture Company resigned earlier this month.

Derry was selected as the UK's first City of Culture in July 2010.

It has already hosted a number of significant events, including the all-Ireland fleadh, a festival of Irish music, in August.

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