A presentation on how the designation of Galway as the European Capital of Culture could benefit the county was given to councillors at this week’s local authority meeting. The designation celebrates Europe’s cultural diversity with two member States, Ireland and Croatia, sharing the 2020 title. Galway is currently putting together a bid and the successful bid will be announced in 2016, therefore giving a three year lead up to 2020.
Councillors were staunch in their support of Galway to be successful in its bid, but were adamant that the county must see a substantial benefit from the proposed designation. Council director of services Catherine McConnell gave the presentation which outlined how the city alone would not be able to cope with the increase in tourism if the title comes west, and the county would have a huge supporting role in accommodating visitors. Ms McConnell said it was essential to showcase the best of what Galway has to offer on an International stage and the county must be fully committed to the bid from the outset. She cited staff, elected members, the arts and cultural sector, the HSE, schools, and every community in the county as having a vital role to play in the bidding process. The benefits to being awarded the title were outlined, and they included major economic and cultural development, greater recognition of ‘brand’ Galway, a lasting legacy, community empowerment and social engagement, along with town regeneration possibilities. Cork, Derry, and Liverpool were given as recent examples of transformational change as a result of being awarded ECOC status. Catherine McConnell said the model of The Gathering would be looked at as a way to get communities involved in the process, she also emphasised that it was a capital of culture not a city of culture.
Tuam based councillor Carey McHugh said something of this magnitude could not be under-estimated for what it can do for a county. ‘’People will be coming to Galway city but they will move further afield into all our towns and villages. We have seen the effect of something like the Volvo Ocean Race, and that is only a short event, a year long run of cultural events would be amazing.’’ Connemara councillor Eileen Mannion sounded a note of caution following the Volvo Ocean Race. ‘’
That event caused a vacuum - everything was sucked into the city- and I would not like to see a similar situation with the Capital of Culture. I welcome the bid and it is a great initiative but the county must get its fair share this time.’’ Councillor Jimmy McClearn also said it was extremely important that the county gains advantage from this proposed set of events. ‘’From Portumna to Clifden and Glinsk to Gort, we need detail on how this is going to benefit the county. I would support the premise but until I see proof of what is in it for the county, I am not prepared to say too much on it.‘’ A number of councillors concurred with this sentiment.
Councillor Thomas Welby was positive about the potential gain for the county ‘’This county has so much to offer, it is hard to quantify how much various events are worth. You cannot compare this to the Volvo Ocean Race, they are not like for like. We need to go round the county and see what contributions can be made, and I believe this can be really successful.’’ Councillor Frank Kearney said he understood the concern this was to become city-driven, but said councillors must be pro-active in pushing this issue. ‘’There is an onus on every community to get involved in this project. We must do it for ourselves and not just sit around and wait for something to happen.’’