Olivia Newton-John’s song, ‘Physical’, could become the new shout out for Galway’s bid for European Capital of Culture 2020. ‘Let’s get cultural, cultural, I wanna get cultural’ and so on.
As Ireland is set to host a European Capital of Culture in 2020, Galway has become a Candidate city, with the intention of winning this prestigious designation to ensure long-term cultural, social and economic benefits. This is an incredible opportunity for the city and the western region to make official Galway’s status as Ireland’s ‘unofficial capital of culture’. How do we make this happen and what will it mean for the city? And how do we ensure everybody is aware and involved in this?
According to the European Union, being designated as a European Capital of Culture can lead to:
If chosen, there will no doubt be many economic, social and cultural benefits for Galway. The European City/Capital of Culture Programme was launched in 1985 and the ECoC title has been awarded to nearly 60 cities in 30 countries. The programme has become a key platform for city positioning and a catalyst for economic and cultural regeneration. A study of 58 such cities which took place in 2013 concluded a number of items, including having a remarkable effect on the city’s cultural vibrancy.
Many might say, Galway already has this vibrancy, but it also could be seen as having an renaissance around the image of our city, attracting media attention and enhancing its reputation and perceptions. There are varying views on the impact of job creation, however, there is evidence of a growth in tourism and a reposition of cities that can be felt for many years thereafter. Glasgow is one of the best examples of this long-term effect; Liverpool 2008 achieved unprecedented growth during the year itself; and Linz 2009 offers a good indicator of a city, which was not previously well known, demonstrating good, steady growth. (Source; European Capitals of Culture: Success strategies and Long-Term effects, study 2013)
So what do we all need to do to be part of this? I believe that for it to work, engagement with all citizens is paramount, and that is no easy task. Having a clear vision from the outset would also be beneficial. Experience has shown that work should be strategic, explicit and targeted. It must recognise the role of key sectors (e.g. educational and social services). It must respect and find space for communities to develop their own identities and respond to the ECoC in their own terms.
So how do you get people to engage now to bring about this bid initially? The Website of Galway2020 refers to needing political support and the support of business and hospitality sectors among others. I agree with this, of course, but I think this needs to be about communities in particular and about engaging the small organisations in the process now and not later. Because, when there is buy-in early from locally based communities, there is ownership, there is commitment, there is loyalty. So the challenge is, of course, to get political, business and hospitality, but for me it has to be about community engagement, small emerging groups, long established groups, those that we don’t hear about all the time, otherwise it could be more of the same, and that would just be the worst pity of all!
So let’s get cultural, in the communities all around Galway!
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