Ten-month countdown as white flag is raised on Capital of Culture bid

Galway city has less than a year to make a full application to become the European Capital of Culture 2020, following the Government’s announcement last evening to hold an open competition for an Irish city to be selected for the prestigious title.

An Irish city and a Croatian city will jointly hold the European Capital of Culture title, with Galway’s main competitors including Limerick, Dublin, and a joint bid made up of Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford.. The final selection will be made towards the end of 2015 and the winning city announced in late summer/early autumn 2016.

The announcement of the competition by Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, has been described by Fine Gael senator Hildegarde Naughton as “very important” as the absence of formal Government guidelines was “causing anxiety locally”.

“Galway can now move forward and finalise its proposals to be named a European Capital of Culture in 2020,” she said. “The European Capital of Culture designation is a huge opportunity to highlight the richness and diversity of our cultural life in the city.”

Galway now has 10 months in which to make an application with the closing date being October 17.

While the department is organising the competition, a shortlist will then be drawn up by a 10-member international panel. The panel will expect budgetary, management and delivery structures to “be robust”.

It will also measure the prospective city’s long term cultural, economic, and social development strategy; its European dimension; the cultural and artistic dimension; its capacity to deliver; and how it plans to reach out to audiences and encourage community involvement.

The shortlisted cities will have a further nine months in which to develop and refine their applications. Ireland will make its designation based on the panel’s final recommendation.

The Galway City Council is determined to take the title in 2020, having lost out to Cork in 2005. Earlier this year, NUI Galway won the tender to bid on behalf of the city for the Capital of Culture status, and since June has been undertaking an extensive public and stakeholder consultation process.

Despite the failure of the 2005 bid, there is confidence Galway can compete for the 2020 title given the stature of the Galway International Arts Festival, the Galway Film Fleadh, Cúirt, the Comedy Carnival Galway, and TULCA. In recent years, the focus of the Capital of Culture bid has placed less emphases on infrastructure, and more to a focus on community involvement and European culture.

“Galway is the home to some of the country’s best known festivals and cultural events. It is time it was recognised,” said Sen Naughton, who believes securing the title will impact not only on the city’s arts scene, but on its economic and infrastructural life, and tourism industry.

“Positive benefits will accrue to Galway on foot of a successful bid,” she said. “Being awarded European Capital of Culture status has led to the regeneration of cities, a raised international profile, an enhanced image, a rejuvenation of a city’s culture, and a significant increase in tourism.”

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