Let the jostling begin

One thing a runner focuses on when limbering up at a start line, is the exact position of the finish line. And in the mind’s eye, the runner visualises the acceleration at the start, the pacing and jostling of the runners as they traverse the circuit and then strategise the manoeuvres for the home run with one eye firmly on the finish. And when you know how far away that finish line is, then you get a greater indication of the tactics you use.

Yesterday, the Government revealed the start line and the finish line for the bid to become the Capital of Culture. It is a monicker much sought by Galway and much deserved by Galway, but it will not be easily won as other bidders will feel that they have equally valid a claim to it as we do.

While Dublin and Limerick are also in the race, I feel the strongest bid apart from our own, will come from the South East where the triple alliance of Kilkenny, Wexford, and Waterford will together represent a strong challenge

All three areas in that bid bring something major to the table, in terms of history of culture, and in terms of infrastructure. Indeed, it could be argued that apart from Dublin, the South East bid contains the most varied type of artistic infrastructure of all the bidders.

However if Galway is to succeed, it will not be because we have the best theatre or the longest cinemahouse. It will be because we can illustrate that as a city and as a people, we are defined by culture and the arts. It is not enough to say that we sell 50,000 tickets to artistic events each year or whatever. It has to be a case that we do the arts and culture because it is in our souls.

We live and breathe it. We are consumers and producers. Our city is a haven to writers and playwrights and poets and singers and storytellers and dancers and shapethrowers of all description. This genre of people portray the Galwayness in Galway. They represent the free spirit that dragged them to this town in the first place.

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.

It is understood that €20 million would be needed to fund the entire year of events if Galway’s bid is successful. Of that, €12 to €14 million must be secured by City Hall. Around €6 million will be provided by the State, although this week Minister Humphreys said: “I do not envisage the Exchequer providing more than half of the cost of the event, and any city which vies for the title must have the capacity to put together a strong funding package at local level.”

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 process 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.

Galway is well capable of doing this if all the stakeholders get together and unite behind the one flag. The winning of this title will affect the next generation and could define Galway into the middle of this century and beyond.

So let the best place win, but please let it be ours. We should do all we can to win this title, because the designation will last for ever.


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