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CITY TRIBUNE

Deep concerns in arts community over unanswered Galway 2020 questions

Judy Murphy

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Attending a special Galway City Council meeting when the CEO and Chair of Galway 2020, Hannah Kiely and Aideen McGinley, were updating councillors on how the project was progressing, was a thoroughly depressing experience.

Apparently, the purpose of the meeting was to allow councillors to ask questions and seek answers to issues around 2020, following the resignation of its Creative Director and the appointment – then non-appointment – of a Business Engagement Director.

There were – and there still are – other questions around sponsorship, communications and the overall financial status of this company charged with delivering Galway as European Capital of Culture in 2020.

These are serious questions, ones that are causing deep concern among the arts community of Galway – hard-working people who have thrown their energy behind this project and who have been faced with problems ranging from funding to issues around ownership of intellectual copyright in their dealings with 2020.

As someone who has reported on the arts in Galway for three decades, I know the contribution the people on the frontline have made to this city. Before Galway won this designation of European Capital of Culture, these people had made it world-renowned as a creative and wonderful place in which to live. I’d go so far as to say; Galway City had a comparatively easy ride during the economic downturn compared to other cities because of its brilliant arts community.

They are the people who stand to gain – or to lose – most, depending on how 2020 pans out. And, in a project such as this, our primary duty should be to them. But as councillor after councillor expressed their outrage on Tuesday night at what was going on around 2020, most of them – bar a few resolute challengers – chose to target this outrage at ‘the media which had an agenda’ and ‘the whisperers’ who were ‘undermining’ Galway 2020. There were questions around finance and communication issues, but from where I sat, this looked more like a damage-limitation exercise than a serious attempt to explore the concerns that exist around the progress towards 2020.

Galway, according to one councillor, was simply the best and let not the likes of Limerick be thinking they were in our league. What arrogance. Yes, Galway won the bid, defeating Limerick and the ‘Three Sisters’. And that was great. But now we have to deliver on it – leaving room for neither complacency nor arrogance.

For starters, let me tell those councillors who were taking potshots about whisperers, nobody in the arts community is whispering – they are talking openly about their livelihoods, and those I have spoken to were not reassured after this week’s meeting.

Many questions still remain and while City Chief Executive Brendan McGrath gave a rousing speech at the end, in which he pointed out that 2020 was about the artists, it contained very few cold, hard facts about sponsorship raised to date or about tangible artistic progress.

He did say that ‘new exciting’ appointments would be made towards the end of the month. These would be producers. Producers are a vital component of 2020. But what about a Creative Director? This is the person charged with offering artistic direction to the entire project – and according to the page 92 of the Bid Book which won us the Capital of Culture designation, that person would have responsibility for delivering the artistic programme, 70 per cent of which was outlined in the book. That left 30 per cent of the programming to the Creative Director. The previous incumbent, Chris Baldwin, has resigned. But 2020 still needs creative direction – in artistic organisations, producers are normally appointed to implement the Creative Director’s vision, not to provide it themselves. Different roles, therefore different skills required.

Mr McGrath made no mention of a Creative Director in his rousing speech. It’s a worry.

Secondly, let me turn to those councillors who were having a dig at the media on Tuesday night.

The media have a duty to ask questions, particularly when all the money that has been allocated to 2020 so far has come from public coffers – ie, from us, the taxpayers, including this town’s artistic community. So, it’s appropriate that the media will continue to ask questions. And we won’t apologise for it.

We all want Galway 2020 to succeed, none moreso than the artistic community.

But burying our heads in the sand and pretending that issues don’t exist won’t make things right. One of the braver councillors, Ollie Crowe, pointed out that as of now, 2020 is €10 million behind budget – in an overall budget of some €45.7 million. That’s not insignificant. It’s just one of the many issues.

We need to wake up to the reality and the challenges we face. Starting with our city councillors.

■ Judy Murphy is Arts Editor of the Galway City Tribune and has been reporting on the arts in the West of Ireland for more than three decades.

CITY TRIBUNE

WATCH: The Olivers to the rescue … again!

Enda Cunningham

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Father and son rescue team Patrick and Morgan Oliver were back in action in Salthill this morning, when they helped a swimmer who got into difficulty.

A member of the public raised the alarm at around 10.30am and the Coastguard sought the assistance of Galway Lifeboat who launched from Galway Docks.

Two members of the lifeboat shore crew made their way to the promenade to assist in the rescue.

Patrick and Morgan Oliver were fishing off Salthill at the time and spotted the man taking refuge on Palmers Rock about 200 metres from Salthill shore. They took him on board their fishing boat and brought him back to Galway Docks. Galway Lifeboat in the meantime was stood down. 

The man was taken into the Lifeboat station where he received treatment for symptoms of hypothermia until an ambulance arrived.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Assurances given on progress of road, bridge and bus projects

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – It will take time and a lot of money, but the city’s network of major transport projects will proceed on schedule – that was the assurance given this week to councillors by City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath.

Councillors had expressed concerns at their meeting on Monday about the slow rate of progress being made with major capital projects including two new pedestrian bridges over the River Corrib.

However, Brendan McGrath told the meeting that the timelines for the range of capital transport projects – while challenging – were reasonable, pragmatic and achievable.

“All of the projects are moving forward but we must adhere to all the procedures and the different stages that have to be complied with: we have no choice in that,” said Brendan McGrath.

Senior City Council Engineer, Uinsinn Finn, in reply to a number of queries about potential new bus routes, said that while the Council worked closely with Bus Éireann and the bus companies, the local authority didn’t decide on the routes.

Earlier in the meeting, Cllr Peter Keane (FF), asked ‘how it could take 63 months’ to deliver a pedestrian/cycle bridge over the Corrib even though the piers (old Corrib Railway Line) were already in place for the project.

“How can it take over five years to put a bridge like this over the Corrib,” he asked, after hearing that this €11 million Greenways-linked project would not be completed until 2026.

There is a snappier timescale for the Salmon Weir Pedestrian/Cycle Bridge – to be located adjacent to the existing structure on the southern side – with planning consent expected by next Summer and a completion date set for the end of 2022.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council removes ‘shop local’ signage despite agreement with Latin Quarter

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Signage promoting a ‘eat, drink and shop local’ campaign, erected by a local business group, was removed by the Galway City Council – despite an understanding that permission had been granted.

The bilingual signage was placed on a number of solar compactor bins and bollard-control boxes in the city centre by the Latin Quarter business group, in an attempt to promote local businesses grappling with the effects of Covid-19.

A source in the group told the Galway City Tribune that the signage cost around €3,500 and that permission to erect it had been given by a ‘senior Council official’.

The signs were put up in mid-October but only lasted around two weeks when City Hall’s Environment Department had them removed, claiming that they had not been consulted.

“There was clearly a breakdown in communications in City Hall because we had permission from a senior official to proceed, and then the Environment Department took issue with the signs and insisted that they had to be removed,” said the source.

A Council spokesperson said they were currently in discussions with the Latin Quarter to provide promotional material and added “there’s been no falling out here”.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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