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Lack of succession plan ‘puts Galway’s arts status at risk’


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Lack of succession plan ‘puts Galway’s arts status at risk’ Lack of succession plan ‘puts Galway’s arts status at risk’

Galway needs to support the production of culture and not just the celebration of culture, according to the author of a new book charting 100 years of culture in this city and county.

Dr Patrick Collins (pictured), Galwegian and associate professor at the University of Galway, has warned Galway’s status as Ireland’s ‘capital of culture’ was under threat from neo-liberal economics.

Author of ‘Galway: Making a Capital of Culture’, which will be launched this week, Dr Collins said that to sustain its unique cultural status, Galway needed to support culture-makers, such as artists and producers, rather than focusing on celebrating culture, which was funding of festivals.

And ahead of the launch, Dr Collins warned that there was a lack of a succession plan to bridge the artistic community that created Druid, Macnas and Galway Arts Festival in the 1970s and 1980s, and the new up-and-coming generation of culture-makers turned off by the Galway 2020 debacle and issues such as high rents for accommodation.

“Galway is at a turning point. When you look back at the last 100 years and how culture has made the place, that turning point is an inflection that moved ever-sharper by Galway 2020, by a genuine disaffection amongst young culture-makers in Galway about being culture makers in Galway.

“The generation of (Macnas co-founder Páraic) Breathnach and Garry Hynes (of Druid) were only delighted to be in Galway to make culture. Now we have a coincidence of lots of different factors, Galway 2020 being one, and rent prices being another, where we are putting that generation of 20-odd-year-olds under threat.

“Continuing towards Galway as a place of cultural celebration isn’t going to offer them the opportunities, because they are never going to make it onto the Galway Arts Festival programme. They might make it if they do their own festival but that’s not sustainable either. So these factors are coming together now for us to question what’s needed for Galway’s cultural association to stay with it as the place grows over the next 100 years,” Dr Collins said.

He makes 10 recommendations about this in his new book and “support of young culture-makers is key”.

Dr Collins said his analysis revealed “the demographic profile of cultural Galway has completely hollowed-out” in the middle.

“We had the likes of Garry Hynes and that generation that made the Galway that we know, in the 1970s and 1980s. They’re now reaching the age of retirement. Behind them, there is nobody in their 40s and 50s, or not many. Then we have those just coming out of college. A young, vibrant scene – Gallery 126 and Fíbín, in general, under 30s. But what are we going to do to address succession? That’s another inflection point Galway is at right now.

“As those culture makers are getting to those later stages of their careers, who is going to take over? Because we haven’t built succession into this. Unsustainable modes like focusing on cultural celebration are never interested in succession. More sustainable guidance towards enabling cultural production and culturemakers will make it possible for those in their 30s and 40s to make a living in a place like Galway,” Dr Collins said.

As a member of the original team that put together the bid book for Galway 2020 ECOC, Dr Collins has dedicated a chapter to that recent period of Galway’s cultural history.

In its foreword, President Michael D Higgins said the book “situates Galway in the broader debate as to the role of culture in the space of economic change in spatial identity”.

President Higgins added it made “an important point in reminding us that culture needs constant nourishment and protection. The fact that Galway has been a cultural place does not mean that Galway will continue to be a cultural place. I hope this book helps initiate a debate we urgently need”.

Published by Orpen Press it will be launched on Thursday, November 30 in Signify Health, Alcantara Building, Bonham Quay, by Patricia Forde, Laureate na nÓg. It is available now for €17 from bookshops

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