Most of the ‘old guard’ on the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera’s executive board stepped down this week, casting doubt on whether or not the long awaited 50th anniversary of the Festival will ever take place.
First, it emerged that Sean Dower had resigned as chairman and executive director of the festival on 4th August. And, as we went to press, other festival stalwarts such as Jack O’Donoghue, Tony O’Regan, Dave Kelly and Paddy McManus had either tendered or were about to tender their resignations.
Sources close to the situation suggested that the long serving members ‘jumped before they were pushed’ as an imminent extraordinary general meeting of the board is expected to accept a proposal to establish a new, smaller executive made up of younger personnel with experience in finance and marketing.
The role of the City Council on the board of the festival has increased in recent years and the financial support of the local authority is widely perceived as the reason the 48th and 49th festivals went ahead. However cuts in public spending, notably in the arts, could jeopardise this funding in the future and it is widely believed that City Manager Michael Walsh wants the festival run in a more streamlined fashion, with greater input from the local authority.
There was widespread dismay throughout the city last year when it became clear that the festival, running since 1959, would not be celebrating its 50th Anniversary as planned. The closure of the Theatre Royal for renovations was at the time blamed for the postponement of the Golden Jubilee festival, though there was a certain amount of disquiet that another venue had not been found. There were plans that the 50th anniversary would instead be marked in 2009 but that won’t now happen and there are concerns over whether this dream will ever be realised.
Sean Dower, who cited ‘personal reasons’ for his resignation, served as chairman of the WIFLO since 1980, though his involvement with the event spans even further as he was involved with fringe events from the mid 1970s.