‘Red flag’ over Cork film festival finances

The former head of the Cork Film Festival has urged city councillors to reconsider giving the cash-strapped event a €200,000 bailout tonight until they have full sight of the company’s finances.

‘Red flag’ over Cork film festival finances

Mick Hannigan, who was let go from the company in 2013 and who now runs a rival film festival, also said the fact that the Cork Film Festival’s figures have not been outlined to a full council meeting raises a “red flag” and suggests to him that its financial problems could be greater.

“Before councillors consider the loan application therefore, you should be clear on the exact degree of the company’s indebtedness,” Mr Hannigan said in a letter to councillors over the weekend. “To make a decision without this information would be grossly irresponsible.”

Councillors were told last week that the Cork Film Festival is at immediate risk of receivership. Its board has requested a €200,000 loan from city council, and devised a restructuring plan to put it on a secure footing.

Board members briefed members of the council’s arts committee on the situation behind closed doors on Thursday night.

Committee members and senior city officials said they were reassured by what they heard and the committee’s recommendation to extend the loan will be voted on at a full council meeting to be held in public this evening.

it is expected that the loan will be sanctioned.

In his letter, Mr Hannigan said the board of the film festival must first present a clear and honest account of its finances and explain how it got into this precarious financial position.

Mr Hannigan said its accounts for 2013 show a €136,000 loss but he said councillors are entitled to know how much was lost in 2014 and in 2015.

He accused the festival of having a free-spending culture in the belief the public would pick up the tab. And he said it has lost much of its international standing.

“Much as we in Cork might like to think otherwise the reality is that Cork Film Festival has become a local festival of little national and no international significance,” he said.

He criticised the restructing plan and said the proposal to hire an interim manager would mean three different people overseeing the 2014, 2015 and 2016 festivals.

“For a company to have such a revolving door when it comes to this key position is extraordinary,” he said. “It seems to me that the appointment of yet another manager to deliver a complex event in less than six months is a recipe for further failure.”

He concluded by suggesting that the only rationale for granting this loan is to save the embarrassment of those responsible for the receivership crisis.

“It does nothing to assist the development of a healthy culture of film exhibition or of film-making in Cork,” he said.

He said councillors have a chance tonight to consider a viable alternative, and a chance to put film in Cork on a sound footing.

The board of the film festival declined to comment until its request is dealt with.

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