Councillors voice unanimous support for Galway 2020 as competition deadlines draw near

Everyone is being asked to get on board and do what they can to support the European Capital of Culture 2020 bid ahead of the June 17 deadline for the submission of Galway’s bid book for the competition.

Galway’s city councillors unanimously supported Galway’s bid for ECoC 2020 at a meeting on Monday following an update on the project.

Galway 2020 project manager Patricia Philbin outlined the progress to date as well as significant upcoming dates in the competition, which sees Galway city and county, Limerick, and counties Waterford, Wexford, and Kilkenny — collectively known as the Three Sisters — vying for the ECoC 2020 title.

Following the submission of the final bid book next month, the 2020 jury will visit Galway on July 11, and will spend eight hours viewing first-hand the preparations for the programme. The team will make its final presentation to the jury in Dublin Castle on July 14, and the winner will be announced the following day.

Galway 2020 project team member Mark O’Donnell outlined the economic benefits which other cities have gained from the European Capital of Culture title. Liverpool, which held the title in 2008, saw a direct spend in the city and region of some £754 million as a result of the programme. The city — which was originally considered an outsider in the competition for the title — also saw a 34 per cent growth in visitors since 2007, amounting to an additional 9.7 million visitors to the city. Previous capitals of culture such as Lille (2004 ) and Cork (2005 ) have also reaped significant economic benefits from their participation.

“In the short time I have been involved I think the support from the business sector has been absolutely phenomenal,” said Mr O’Donnell, who joined the Galway 2020 team earlier this year. “We want to get engagement across businesses of all sizes. In the next few weeks we’re rolling out the 2020 Club; we’re asking businesses to donate €2,020 each.” Mr O’Donnell said this initiative has the capacity to raise some €4 million for the project.

Councillors were very supportive of the project, with many voicing their desire to do anything they can to ensure Galway secures the 2020 title.

Cllr Peter Keane stressed the importance of ensuring the Galway 2020 project is supported in the draft Galway City Development Plan, which councillors are due to discuss at length next month. “I don’t think the importance and potential of this can in any way be overstated,” he said. “It behoves us to be cognisant of the really exciting opportunities which are going to come before us in the coming weeks. It’s about making Galway a wonderful place to live, to work, to enjoy.”

Galway City Council’s chief executive, Brendan McGrath, described the bid as “a once in a generation opportunity to use culture as a tool for transformation”. However he warned that there was no room for complacency in the competition.

“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is a competition, and competitions can be won and lost,” Mr McGrath warned. “The competition is fierce, and Limerick and the Three Sisters are leaving no stone unturned. We have some of the best festivals of any city on the island of Ireland, but 2020 is not about doing what you already do. It’s about making yourself meaningful and tangible and real to a wider European audience. What Europe requires is that you use 2020 as a vehicle and a tool for transformation. Galway city and county are on a journey to put culture at the heart of everyday life in the city, and 2020 is but a milestone on that path.”

While acknowledging that “social media and web presence won’t win it”, Mr McGrath encouraged the councillors to get everyone involved in promoting the 2020 project online. “The jury is actually monitoring our web presence and social media,” he added. “If you can encourage more people to get involved in social media, linking to the website, and so on, that’s helpful.”

To find out how you can get involved in the Galway 2020 bid, visit


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