Municipal gallery and major concert venue are key for city’s challenge for Capital of Culture

Council plans for 2020 title taking shape with tenders announced

The creation of a municipal art gallery and a large scale venue for major concerts and events is vital if Galway is to put in a serious challenge for the title of European Capital of Culture.

The city’s 2005 bid was unsuccessful due to the absence of such facilities, but city manager Brendan McGrath said it is City Hall’s “intention to remedy the lack of a municipal gallery” while the issue of a large scale venue “can be dealt with in a variety of ways”.

The importance of securing such infrastructure is that the EU expects the designated European Capital of Culture to be able to hold a number of “marquee events”, such as an opening and closing ceremony, and major outdoor events such as concerts, perhaps between as many as eight and 12 throughout the year.

Such issues are being actively considered as part of the Galway City Council’s bid for the 2020 title which is being awarded that year to Ireland. The city will be competing for the title with Limerick and Waterford, and possibly Kilkenny and Sligo.

In order that a bid can be put together and submitted to a 10 member EU group - consisting of Parliament, Commission, and Council of Minister members - City Hall has put out a tender for a team that can “deliver all stages of the pre-selection phase of the European Capital of Culture 2020 process”.

The successful team will need to have a track record in project management; community consultation and outreach; experience in developing cultural and artistic programming; a good working knowledge of the EU funding process; an understanding of contemporary Irish and international arts and culture; understanding of the arts in Galway; and the ability to develop both the content and realisation of the bid document.

City Hall officials are keen to emphasise the importance of consultation and its role in gathering support and building momentum behind the bid. Officials said consultation will engage with Galway citizens, most likely through social media and on-street consultations; residents’ associations; arts groups and organisations, both professional and amateur; as well as local and international businesses in Galway. Councillors will also be kept informed throughout all stages.

It is understood that foreign multi-nationals in the city are keen to see Galway succeed and that both third level institutions support the council’s efforts to secure the title. The Galway County Council is also partnering City Hall in the bid as the EU is keen that any Capital of Culture has a regional as well as urban emphasis.

As well as securing a team to drive all stages of the bid, the Galway City Council is also putting together three internal teams to work with the tendering group and to whom that group will report. The teams will also work in co-operation with each other.

The council’s executive project team for the bid is understood to include the city manager; Patricia Philbin, senior executive in City Hall’s culture department; city arts officer James Harrold; city heritage officer Jim Higgins; senior planner Caroline Phelan; senior executive architect Rosie Webb; and Town Hall Theatre manager Fergal Grath, whose CV also includes Druid and the Galway Arts Festival.

This group will work with an advisory panel, which will provide a “high level cultural overview of Galway city and the region”, to carry out work identified by the steering committee, which will consist of representatives of key stakeholders within the city and county. Both the advisory panel and steering committee will be put in place in the near future.

The initial bid for Galway must be put in place by the end of this year, with the short list of candidates announced in early 2015, and a final decision made in 2016.

“The Galway City Council is serious about winning this and we intend to win it,” city manager Brendan McGrath said yesterday. “Galway has something unique to offer and if we capture the title it will not just benefit the city and region in 2020 but for many years beyond.”


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