From the people who brought you the present, it’s The Future

“Well your honour, the defendant was just making his way into the city centre, having disembarked from the Queen of the Seas luxury cruise liner, when he was set upon by the homeless man who proceeded to beat him about the head with his iPad. He then walked past the President Higgins Memorial Theatre, crossed the Conneely pedestrian footbridge over the Corrib, past the former courthouse which is now the virtual artspace, and was enjoying his quadruple shot mocha mocha latte when the attack occurred. The homeless man, obviously addicted to connectivity, came up to him and asked him if he had any spare USBs”

Will this be the way courtcases read in 2040? Will life be as we know it? Will the streets through town still wind the same way they did when Kennedy was here?

One doesnt know if we will be around in 2040. Indeed, the way things are going, sometimes you’d be hard pressed to know if you’ll be around at 20.40 tonight, never mind in three decades from now, but to that lofty date in the future, our vision will turn next week.

Life is too short to sacrifice some hours of it to attend some of the many seminars that are held around the country, especially in the past few years when seminars with titles which must be interesting only to those with just a smidgeen of imagination were commonplace. However next week in the city, takes place a seminar that definitely does not fall into that category. It was fitting this week that Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd and the cast of Back To the Future gathered in LA to mark the 25th anniversary of the movie that summed up the eighties, because on Friday week (Nov 5 ) the great and the good of Galway society and academia will look to the future and give their tuppence worth of how this city should be shaped in the coming three decades.

The day-long symposium in GMIT is being held to create public debate on a vision for Galway for the next generation. Organised by the Galway 2040 Initiative (Sounds like something from Lost ) it is led by Paul Shelly and Rory O’Connor, Jim Fennell (GMIT & Marine Institute ), Professor Kevin Leyden (NUIG CISC ), and Michael Coyle (Galway Chamber ). Represented at this conference will be the great, the good and the beautiful and we hope that it will produce, if not firm plans for the future, at least a roadmap to where we would like Galway to be.

It doesn’t seem that long since it was 1980 and the changes in the city since then have been mainly structural, so what changes can we expect by 2040. Earlier this year, when researching for our 40th anniversary supplement, I went through thousands of issues and read with excitement of the great plans that were oft mentioned for the city, some of which came to fruition, but most of which did not So it is too easy to be cynical about these things. Those who will be contributing to the debate would be mistaken though for focussing too much on changing the physical structure of the city. When Galway became the city/town/state of mind it is, it did so before the days of the glass block towers or the ‘mine is bigger than yours’ school of development. It came about because free-thinking people found an environment in which their eccentricity could flourish, where their creativity could find a home and where social inclusion was developed.

There is enough material in this conference to run over a series of months, so it will be an intensive day for those attending, and one that could yet produce the way forward for Galway. As with a lot of things in this town, it is the same people who are permitted to shape the future over and over again. The same voices, the same faces, the same accents. It is time now for a new layer of people to come forth and maybe that will happen after next week’s debate. Maybe people who genuinely have something to offer will be inspired by what they hear and be encouraged to become part of Galway’s future. Students and teenagers in particular would learn a lot from what they see and hear.

It should be a fascinating day to which you are all invited. However, pre-registration is mandatory and you can do this at www.galway2040.ie or follow it on Facebook www.facebook.com/ galway2040. Go forth and seize the future and come back and tell us what it’s like.

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