My Kind Of Town - a vision for Galway post-Covid-19

A platform for Galway to put forward ideas on how, after the pandemic, we can transform our city for the better

From left: Cecilia Danell; Róisín Stack; Scott Green.

From left: Cecilia Danell; Róisín Stack; Scott Green.

Cecilia Danell

Visual artist, musician

Galway is in a unique position as a city, being internationally associated with arts and culture. This is a reputation the city has capitalised on over the years in encouraging tourists to visit and students to choose to study here.

People from all over Ireland, and other parts of the world, choose to live here because of the relaxed, artistic atmosphere so many of us enjoy. Maintaining this reputation is key to rebuilding after the Covid crisis and into the future.

'I hope that, post the Covid crisis, we will see legislation limiting the amounts of city apartments being used as holiday lets'

The reality is, that being an artist or a musician is a precarious career choice, especially now, and Galway needs to step up to make sure the talented individuals who make this city such an exciting place to be, are supported and able to stay working here.

Artists, who tend to survive on the lower end of the income spectrum, are finding it hard to secure housing in the city, and in a similar way to Dublin, many have been forced to move further out into the county, or to other cities such as Limerick, thereby seriously depleting Galway’s cultural fabric of the very people who are integral to its reputation.

I hope that, post the Covid crisis, we will see legislation limiting the amounts of city apartments being used as holiday lets, and that there is serious consideration given to the provision of affordable housing to artists and younger people who inject life into the city through their presence. We don’t want Galway to become another Venice, where locals are pushed out from the city itself.

I would also like to acknowledge the number of artists who make Galway their home of production, while performing and exhibiting on the national and international arena. These people have ambitious careers and are in desperate need of workspaces.

'A council funded workspace hub incorporating studios and rehearsal space would be a fantastic legacy that would keep on giving to the city and show Galway fully deserves its reputation as a city of culture'

The arts that you see in the streets, or in venues, is only a fraction of what goes on here, and behind every production, exhibition, and record, are months of very hard work behind closed doors, which are necessary for that to happen.

Belief in what we are doing is key, and by taking out the precarious stress of securing workspaces and worrying about covering rent, artists could instead spend that time creating ambitious work. Give us the time and space to make and we will emerge with fantastic things.

A council funded workspace hub incorporating studios and rehearsal space would be a fantastic legacy that would keep on giving to the city and show that Galway fully deserves its reputation as a city of culture. Infrastructure is so important and cannot be underestimated. This would encourage young artists to stay in the city and foster an atmosphere of encouragement and trust.

The future of Galway does not lie in the marketing of an arty ‘vibe’ but in stepping up to the task of supporting professional artists across the spectrum, and trusting them to get on with their work. Then we will start to see the real benefits.

Scott Green

Chair of Galway Community Pride

Scott Green (Pride Chair 2020 )

Covid-19 has taught us many important things about ourselves. One, that so much of the vibrancy and colour our city is famed for across the world, comes from the people that fill our streets everyday.

Two, our family, our friends, and our community are who matter most to us and we would do anything to be with them. Three, the ”normal” that we had before is not something we should be trying to get back to, but rather something we should strive to improve.

I want a city ready to rise above trying to be a second Dublin; a city ready to finally shake the label of 'the graveyard of ambition'; a city that knows what its residents can offer, settled and not, migrant or no, and encourages them to participate. At the same time we must be a place that is more than ready to welcome those that are not from Galway, or Ireland, and show those people the same courtesy.

A city that hopefully soon, will have a tenants union and a group of people ready to fight against the extremely exploitative rental market that exists in Galway. On top of that we need to become a city that makes living here affordable and starts bringing in young people and families instead of forcing them away.

I want a city where my friends and family in the LGBT+ Community don’t have to be afraid of walking home alone, where they won’t be attacked on account of who they choose to date or how they identify. I would like a city that I get to walk in as a legally recognised person.

'I want a better Galway, one that’s always been possible, but for many, only now, seems attainable'

My vision is of a city that, while it addresses its long standing transport issues, does not forget that some of its streets do not currently allow for members of the disabled community to walk freely.

I see a lot of people clamouring to have the “old Galway” back but that's not something I would want even if it were possible. I want a better Galway, one that’s always been possible, but for many, only now, seems attainable.

Róisín Stack

Theatre maker and arts manager

Roisin Stack 3

Photo:- Joe Shaughnessy

Lockdown has made me, and I think most people, see the value in what is around them, be that local walking routes or getting to know neighbours.

In a post-lockdown Galway, I hope we continue this appreciation of what is around us, not to become parochial, but to return value and support to places, people, and things that bring value and support to us.

How we spend our money, for example, is powerful: if we support local businesses we may pay a bit extra sometimes, but if we want those businesses to survive, we make that commitment, because we value being part of a community. We saw how some multi-national shops left Galway when the pandemic hit and how unpredictable and problematic tourism became.

I hope we think about new ways of investing in what’s here, in Galway for citizens not just for tourists and business investment. I hope we find more creative and radical ways of looking at the future of our city, and that we each understand our own power and responsibility in that, through how we engage with politics, with city plans, where we spend our money, and how we spend our time.

'I hope we rethink how we invest in the arts so we can unleash the talent that is here, and be more culturally diverse'

The same philosophy extends to the arts. There is a value put on international artists which is not often extended to local and emerging artists. We have fantastic support from audiences and local businesses, but there is a disconnect within the sector.

I hope, post-lockdown, programmers and presenters invest in, and celebrate, what is here much more, rather than perpetuating a post-colonial inferiority complex of ‘external is better’. This requires an ideological shift and long-term thinking so local artists are not exploited to address travel restrictions currently impacting cultural programming.

People talk about the glory days of Galway’s past decades. Artists here are in the shadow of that legacy, making work under increasingly precarious conditions with a deficit of space and funding. I hope we rethink how we invest in the arts so we can unleash the talent that is here, and be more culturally diverse. It is more than bricks and mortar; it is about strategic support, inclusivity, diversity, talking to one another and seeing the value in what I s here.

Ultimately my hope for post-lockdown Galway is that we create a new legacy for what will be in many ways a new city, one that has community in all its forms, at heart.

 

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