‘Game is up’ for city of culture project as Galway 2020 falls short of target

‘Game is up’ for city of culture project as Galway 2020 falls short of target

The new creative director and chair for the Galway’s European city of culture project have “failed to inspire confidence” in the light of fundraising figures, according to the city’s former mayor.

Fine Gael councillor Padraig Conneely said the “game is up” for Galway 2020 in the light of the latest financial report showing the project is far short of its €7m private sponsorship target.

Galway 2020 has spent more than €330,000 of a budget of €2.8m last year on professional, legal and audit fees, external advisors and “other” expenditure, according to the financial report for 2018 presented to Galway county councillors.

The project is still relying heavily on the Government’s promised €15m, €6m from Galway City Council and €2m from Galway County Council — which accounts for half of the original bid book budget of almost €46m.

Cllr Conneely said it was anticipated that appointment of new chair Arthur Lappin, and creative lead Artichoke, headed by Helen Marriage, in January of this year would renew confidence, after a series of resignations and setbacks last year. He said the financial report for 2018 was “disturbing”, with “no clear breakdown and a question mark over high professional, legal and advisor fees and a sum of over €60,000 for unspecified ‘other’ expenses”.

Professional fees amounted to almost €176,000 last year, external advisers cost €47,579 and rent and rates amounted to €111,458, according to the report for the Galway Cultural Development and Activity CLG.

Total direct programme funding amounted to more than €978,000 of a budget of €2.8m, largely drawn from Government and local authority support, with €29,687 in “sponsorship and other”.

It is understood there will be no open call for further projects for Galway 2020 amid continuing concern about budget cuts for the existing bid book projects. Sister 2020 European capital Rijeka in Croatia recently announced an open call.

Speaking at an Arts Council conference in Galway earlier this week, Ms Marriage did outline Artichoke’s work in Britain with what she referred to as “these strange and wonderful people called artists who are seers of the future”.

Galway 2020 said the appointments of Mr Lappin as board chair, Artichoke under the leadership of Helen Marriage and Sarah Coop had been “strategically significant” for successful delivery and had been “widely welcomed by cultural practitioners and others across the sector”.

It said a “large fundraising drive is underway”, with local, national and international packages, but negotiating packages took “time”.

“As is normal for projects of this scale, it is envisaged that the fundraising drive will continue throughout 2019, into and during 2020, with funding realised throughout the entire duration of the project,” it said.

In January, almost 60 Galway-based theatre practitioners formed a collective, Theatre 57, to draw up a long term arts strategy for the city, in the absence of any clear long-term strategy associated with the European capital of culture and beyond 2020.

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