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Cork Film Festival CEO and programmer made redundant

Surprise move sees veterans shown the door. Board claims structure was “unsustainable.”

In a surprise move, the core management and programming staff of the Cork Film Festival - festival CEO Mick Hannigan and festival programmer Úna Feely - have been made redundant.

According to veteran Hannigan, the reason stated by the chairman of the festival, Denis McSweeney, in the redundancy notice was “due to the financial position of the company”.

In a message posted on Facebook, Hannigan countered that suggestion, stating: “We don’t accept at all that the company is in long-term financial difficulties.

“The festival has made a surplus in each of the last four years. The festival is in good financial shape.

“Title sponsor Corona recently ceased their sponsorship as a result of a change of marketing strategy. This represented 16% of the budget but is not a major threat to the 58 year-old event.

“Creatively the festival saw a resurgence in 2012 with the standing ovation at the Opening Gala and a 10% increase in ticket sales.”

Hannigan further speculated that the decision to get rid of the festival organisers arose from a delay in confirmation of Arts Council funding for 2013.

“The company was funded to March 31st,” he added. “There is every reasonable expectation that the Arts Council will continue to fund the event as they have without fail since 1986.

“Yet staff were laid-off in February and I was instructed not to make any submission to the Council which would enable a funding decision in March.”

Lynch resigns

As a result of the two dismissals, board member Frances Lynch resigned stating “my vision for CFF is completely at variance with those of my colleagues on the Board and it would be dishonest of me to stay on the board to legitimise the direction in which my colleagues are taking the CFF. The course the Board is taking makes me realize that I must be open about my support for Mick Hannigan’s vision and running of the film festival.”

In 2012 Board member and arts manager Norah Norton also resigned.

A representative for the board of the festival issued the following statement in response: “The Board of Cork Film Festival has announced changes on foot of an independent strategic review of Ireland’s longest running film festival.”

“The review showed that our current structure is simply unsustainable,” said board chairman Denis McSweeney. “As part of this, the positions of CEO and festival programmer have become redundant.”

The Board paid tribute to the work of both CEO Mick Hannigan and programmer Una Feely.

“We would like to pay tribute to them and thank them for their outstanding contributions throughout the years,” said McSweeney.

Festival manager Sean Kelly will remain. The Cork Film Festival has been running since 1956 and is scheduled to take place once more in November this year.

Feely said: “We are now concerned for the future of the event. The festival has a strong international reputation which results in 3,000 submissions annually. We have championed young and emerging filmmakers. Cork has been really distinctive in that regard. My fear is that all of this will be lost.”

Hannigan had been festival director since 1986. He became CEO in 2009.

Feely has worked with the festival since 1995 and been festival programmer at Cork since 2001.

According to the Cork Independent, What Richard Did director Lenny Abrahamson and Paul Duane, co-creator of ITV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl, have written to the board to express their disappointment with the decision and to let the festival known that they won’t allow their films to be shown at the festival in future.

Films at the 2012 edition included Seven Psychopaths, Son of Babylon, Jesse and Celeste, Just the Wind, Good Vibrations and Reality.

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