Tour de France arts festival chief ‘offered to quit’

The £2m Grand Depart cultural festival’s director has left her role leading the event less than half-way through a 12-month contract.

It has emerged that Maria Bota, who was installed as festival director of the Yorkshire Festival 2014 back in August, handed over the reins to the first ever pre-Tour de France arts celebration as far back as December 18, cutting short a £55,000-a-year pay packet.

Maria Bota, the former festival director of the Yorkshire Festival 2014.

Maria Bota, the former festival director of the Yorkshire Festival 2014.

The events supremo, who had made her name heading up Salisbury Festival, was tasked with commissioning artists for the 47-project county-wide event which starts on March 27.

Tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire confirmed the departure and stated that the then director suggested stepping down and did not receive a pay-off.

A spokeswoman said Ms Bota had a pre-planned trip to Australia over the Christmas period and upon being told the festival programme would be launched in January, she offered to leave.

She said: “Maria put in a place a terrific programme which touches almost every part of our county and includes a wide range of cultural activity. It was then mutually agreed we should appoint an executive producer to deliver the festival.”

Henrietta Duckworth, a West Yorkshire Playhouse producer of eight years, was brought into the fold in December to take over.

The Yorkshire Festival 2014’s cultural programme, which will mark the 100-day countdown to the Grand Depart on July 5 and 6, was announced with much fanfare following an artistic flashmob at the Trinity Leeds shopping centre in late January.

Around £1m from Arts Council England has backed the festival, along with funds from local authorities and Yorkshire Water.

An Arts Council spokeswoman explained the organisation has been kept fully informed of the changes. She said: “We are confident that the festival will be delivered as per the original proposal and will be a great success.”