Did she jump or was she pushed? There’s much
speculation today around why veteran Australian performer and arts impresario
Robyn Archer has suddenly quit one of the most prestigious arts gigs in Europe.

As first reported by The Independent,
Archer has “abruptly” vacated the post of artistic director of Liverpool’s 2008
European Capital of Culture festival amid claims that planning for the event is
turning into a fiasco.

Appointed to the job in 2004 on a “six-figure salary” (we’re talking pounds
sterling), Archer has received less than favourable treatment from the British
press with criticism that she hadn’t spent enough time in the UK and had been
slow in revealing her plans for 2008.

Described as “elusive” and “indecisive” by unnamed sources, Archer was also
said to be facing “widespread resistance” over the kind of program she had in
mind, which was seen to be favouring the performing arts over conceptual art.

This criticism will surprise many people in the Australian arts
community. Archer is held in extremely high regard here and her stewardship of
various Australian festivals – Melbourne Adelaide, Canberra and Tasmania – had
been widely praised.

The Independent report also detailed other problems in Liverpool which
seemed to be more about local politics and stemmed from decisions made by the
City Council before Archer arrived.

Also, at last year’s Deakin lectures in Melbourne, Archer spoke of the
difficulties she faced dealing with European arts bureaucracies.

Claiming she had quit for personal reasons, Archer confined her public
comments to a written statement,
in which she said she regretted leaving Liverpool but was confident there was “a
fantastic depth of talent” to deliver the event in 2008.

Peter Fray

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