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Time to review 2020 and revisit funding for artists

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

Now is a good time to review Galway’s ill-fated stint as European Capital of Culture, says economic geographer Dr Patrick Collins. “We are far enough away from 2020 and all that went with it to have a good honest and open conversation about where Galway needs to go and what it needs to get there,” says the University of Galway lecturer.

His new book, Galway: Making a Capital of Culture, charts the influence of cultural creativity on places, especially peripheral regions of Europe, using Galway over the past century as an example.

One chapter is dedicated to Galway 2020, as the Moycullen man dissects what went wrong and why.

As one of the original people who put together Galway’s bid for European Capital of Culture (ECOC) in 2014, he is as good a person as any to judge.

At that time, Ireland’s cultural community was still reeling from the Limerick National City of Culture debacle. And it was soon after the economic crash. when cash for the arts was scarce.

Dr Collins felt the European Capital of Culture project had become “highly influenced” by a “small set of people in a cabal of a small set of consultants that go around Europe, basically telling cities what to do for a Capital of Culture”.

Galway’s original bid team wanted to change that. They did the largest possible consultation, so the people of Galway could write the bid. But ultimately, he says, the small set of European consultants got their way.

“It became very obvious very quickly that Galway needed two different bids for European Capital of Culture. It needed a bid to convince the people of Galway, and it needed a completely separate bid to convince Europe,” he says.

“What happened, and where problems began to arise was the difference between those two bids. A valiant effort was made to collate the two and present it as a unified bid but the gaps between them were massive.”

Pictured: Launching the Galway 2020 European Cultural Capital programme in 2019. Winning the title was the easy bit, according to Dr Patrick Collins: ‘ You can say anything in the bid book but then you have to start cashing that cheque and that’s when you start saying ‘no’ to people’. PHOTO: BRIAN HARDING.

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