Galway was officially crowned the European Capital of Culture in a ceremony last Friday, which resulted in a festive fever breaking out across the county, as thousands of spectators flocked to Shop Street to watch the final decision being made.
Since then, the Galway 2020 team has been busy with preparations for the next four years, ahead of the biggest opportunity in the county’s history, according to project manager Patricia Philbin.
“Galway has secured probably the biggest opportunity in its history,” she said.
“There is a responsibility on us all for our future generations to take the absolute maximum outcome from it, because it is going to change Galway.”
Ms Philbin explained how the four-year preparation process, coupled with the continued economic growth post-2020, will reduce outward migration of younger generations, and create a sustainable environment in the county.
Her belief was reinforced by teammate Mark O’Donnell, who added, “There been a lot of talk nationally about the tourism benefit, and that is going to be one of the huge economic benefits from this, but not the only one.
“We have spoken to a lot of the FTI companies in Galway, and they see this as huge, in terms of attracting talent into Galway, and retaining a skilled workforce here.”
On average, a capital of culture city tends to retain anywhere from 15 to 25 per cent of the numbers that arrive during the festival season, which promises to be a long one.
“We looked at existing peak events and planned around them. One of the benefits of this we hope is that it will actually extend the season,” said Mr O’Donnell.
By organising events throughout the city and county, and at different times, the Galway 2020 team will avoid clashing with popular tourist attractions, such as the Galway International Arts Festival, and will instead bring visitors to the city outside of the tourist season.
The team have also been in contact with previous cultural capitals Derry and Liverpool, with the hope of avoiding their mistakes and replicating what worked for them on a larger scale.
“It is a national designation, Galway will be representing Ireland in Europe,” said Ms Philbin.
“We have to really use the opportunity to the max in terms of leverage of other investment towards the west, and to make sure that Galway is ready to deliver the ECOC.”
Galway County Council’s Kevin Kelly highlighted just how important this leverage will be for future investments.
“We have now moved from a ‘we might’ scenario, to a ‘we will’ scenario, and that will be hugely beneficial for both ourselves in terms of engagement with other organisations across a whole range of issues, some directly related to ECOC, and perhaps some more tangential,” he said.
Only last week, city councillors were aggravated by the Galway 2020 bid, and claimed that it was leaching from vital resources with regard to city maintenance, such as the upkeep of roundabouts, and roadsides.
With regard to the proposed Galway ring road, the construction of a new theatre at the Black Box, and the development of a new city library, which are not linked to the bid, but come under the council’s cultural strategy, Kelly added, “I would certainly be hopeful of a positive outcome, but I wouldn’t be directly relating it to the ECOC.”
These projects were formulated by the council, and subsequently, are not linked in any way to the ECOC bid.
“The success of Galway’s bid has been a combined ambition of all various sectors across city and county, it has been a huge team effort, there is no one person that is responsible for bringing it over the line,” said Ms Philbin.
“It couldn’t have been done unless we really pulled together, and that became evident to the judges when they were here to visit.
“Huge congratulations to all of the public for their support, and for making this happen.”