Cork Film Festival back on sound financial footing one year on from emergency bailout

Ireland’s longest-running film festival has cleared all of its legacy debt a year on from an emergency €200,000 bailout.

Cork City Hall turned pink every evening for the duration of last year's Cork Film Festival. Picture: Jed Niezgoda

Cork Film Festival, which was on the brink of financial collapse last year, is on a sound financial footing, city councillors have been told.

Its board has met all of its obligations so far under the terms of the loan, which was approved by the city council in May 2016.

Cllr Nicholas O’Keeffe, chair of the council’s arts committee, confirmed the festival board had repaid the first €25,000 instalment of the eight-year interest-free loan, and is focusing on the festival’s 65th anniversary celebrations in 2021.

“It was a difficult decision for council to approve the loan last year. It certainly was controversial, and we had a lot of intense discussion around it before we approved the loan,” he said.

“But we had faith in the film festival brand — we felt the brand was 60 years in the making, and that walking away from it was not the right thing to do.”

Mr O’Keeffe, along with councillors Laura McGonigle and Chris O’Leary, met with members of the festival board last week to discuss the company’s recovery.

“We wanted clarity on all of the legacy debts which were mostly local creditors, and we were told that they have now all been paid for in full. All legacy debts are now cleared — which is good news obviously,” he said.

The board demonstrated clear, financial prudence, he said, adding that councillors and city officials are happy with the organisational and management safeguards the board has put in place.

He said board members told them they are focusing on their core activity and are not seeking to take on expanded festival roles or activities yet. He expressed the hope that if box office numbers continue to improve, the loan may even be cleared early.

In May 2016, it emerged Cork Film Festival was at immediate risk of receivership, and that its board had requested a €200,000 loan from city council.

Councillors were told the situation had arisen from a combination of factors, including financial commitments arising from a restructuring of the company in 2013, funding a more ambitious programme in the run-up to its 60th anniversary in 2015, and loss of its headline sponsor in the recession.


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