European Capital of Culture should provide a lasting legacy, say councillors

Providing permanent structures for culture to flourish, such as a school of music and performing arts, would be the ideal legacy for a city that will be putting forward a bid for the European Capital of Culture 2020, a bid which requires support from all sectors.

That was the view of many city councillors during an update on the bid process which is being led by a team from NUI Galway. Team leader Dr Patrick Collins told the chamber on Monday evening that the focus has moved somewhat away from buildings and more towards creating a legacy and on sustainability. However, he did acknowledge that investing in bricks and mortar would show the city’s confidence in culture.

While NUI Galway was appointed as consultants to lead the bid process, a high level steering committee comprising the Galway city mayor, Donal Lyons, the presidents of NUI Galway and GMIT, and senior representatives of the arts, business, and tourism sectors was also set up and held its inaugural meeting yesterday. City council chief executive Brendan McGrath said the public consultation process, which was estimated to take seven months, was “critical as it will give a voice to everyone”.

Dr Collins told councillors the region-wide bid, the preparation of which will take 10 months, would be led by the philosophy of “understanding the fundamental contribution of culture, creativity, and the arts to social and economic well-being”. “Galway is already Ireland’s unofficial capital of culture, there is culture on the streets of Galway 365 days of the year,” said Dr Collins, who added that success is achieved when there is a strong European dimension, strong political support, stakeholder consultation and agreement, and a focus on legacy. The NUI Galway team plans to create a consultation process that engages the widest possible audience of stakeholders associated with those in culture and the arts, social and political, and business and enterprise.

“Creating a legacy is very important,” said Dr Collins, who added there must be a lasting legacy that sustains Galway as a world class distinctive capital of culture, the arts, and creativity, one that refocuses the city’s economic and commercial base, and makes Galway a leading light in people and place centred development.

Cllr Niall McNelis (Lab ) stressed the importance of securing support from the business community and from all political parties so that Galway’s failed 2002 bid was not repeated.

Cllr Pearce Flannery (FG ) said despite the immense amount of “cultural intellectual capital on the streets of Galway” there was a “deficiency in that we don’t have a school of music or performing arts in the city”. Cllr Flannery said working with the academic institutions to provide such infrastructure would be “a wonderful legacy”.

“I would work for a school of music,” said Cllr Catherine Connolly (Ind ) who added that the council had previously agreed to provide a site that would encourage such a school but “it hasn’t happened”. Urging full support for the bid, Cllr Ollie Crowe (FF ) said there is a “huge opportunity to make the best use of vacant properties” and encourage a “buy-in from the owners”. A motion calling for the council to support the bid was later passed unanimously.

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