Cultural legacies are key to Galway's continued growth

Excitement mounts in Galway which has taken on a blue hue this week in support of Galway's final push to be selected as the European City of Culture 2020.

We expect when the judges arrive on Sunday that they will immerse themselves in the Galway we know and love - an energetic city, bursting with creativity and diversity that boasts a real sense of community and ownership. It is hard to think they will find anything else because in our hearts of hearts we know Galway is this country's foremost city of culture, and deserves the official accolade.

We are blessed in Galway with a myriad of events such as the film fleadh, arts festival, and races that are now intrinsic to the fabric of Galway society. Think oyster festivals, Cuirt festival of literature, Ballinasloe horse fair, and what would Galway be without its love for Gaelic sports which are the heart of the city and county's sporting endeavours? And is there anything as unique as the Aran Islands for history and heritage?

Galway has never been a city that rests on its laurels. In more recent times we have been blessed with the foresight of key people such as John Killeen whose vision brought us the Volvo Ocean Race. Last weekend the infrastructure of our docklands became an amphitheatre for Seafest. And when we think of good, we think of JP McMahon & co who introduced us to the food festival.

That is not to say everything is perfect, and there are always challenges ahead to keep improving. Win or lose, the work that has been ploughed into this bid must be continued because the true worth of any bid is the legacy it leaves and developments that are sustainable.

One need only look across to our European and Celtic cousins in Scotland where Glasgow always played second fiddle to Edinburgh. Its designation as a European city of culture provided Glaswegians with a renewed sense of pride in place, and prompted infrastructural growth.

In the last week Connacht Rugby submitted a proposal to the city council to include a stadium in its plans. Such a development would be a huge boost for a city - akin to their French counterparts where municipal stadia are shared and enjoyed by several sporting and cultural organisations.

One only needs to look at Connacht Rugby's Pat Lam, New Zealand born of Samoan descent, who has instilled a new 'culture' in a club that several years ago was near to being closed down.

"When it comes to ' culture', it's about the way we do things and our team spirit," says Lam." I always compare it to going to war. When your life depends on it, you want to know who you are fighting for and who you are fighting with. It helps when we have a mix of players from Ireland and also from around the world. It's important for them to know who they represent. And when you have that understanding and the right culture, players will do amazing things against the odds."

Our view of culture here in Galway is a broad concept, and if it leaves something of permanent value behind, then Galway is a European city of culture, title or not, whatever the odds.

Linley MacKenzie



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