'Many of the more innovative elements are missing or downplayed' - Consultant criticises Galway 2020 programme

'Many of the more innovative elements are missing or downplayed' - Consultant criticises Galway 2020 programme

The arts consultant who chaired the panel which selected Galway as European Capital of Culture 2020 has criticised the final programme for failing to live up to the promise of its bid book.

British arts consultant Steve Green says the Galway 2020 programme, published last month, is a “slimmed down” version of the city’s original bid, which may not be “international enough” and fails to engage sufficiently with the 24% “new Irish” among its population.

“Many of the more innovative elements are missing or downplayed,” Mr Green said in a comment published online.

A European capital of culture is “radically different” from a national capital of culture due to its international dimension, Mr Green said, with the “norm” being that international events should make up over 50% of the programme .

Mr Green said he finds it “difficult to see the internationalism” in Galway’s programme, while he also recalls that one key point made by Galway in its selection bid was that 24% of residents were “new Irish”.

“I can’t see a corresponding engagement of them in the programme, or even in the list of staff of the European Capital of Culture (ECOC),” he said.

“I can’t see, but this could be in a secondary programme,” he said, noting that the cultural implications of Brexit is “perhaps one of the key European issues which needs discussion in an ECOC in Ireland”.

Galway’s projected budget of €46m has been scaled down to €39m, with latest indications that the targeted €7m in private sponsorship is still beyond reach.

“Give a sound management team €30m plus, a few years lead in and a good programme surely follows,” Mr Green said, adding that a European capital of culture programme should be “more” than a list of standard festivals which “fills a lot of pages”.

“In many ways an ECOC, linked to a city’s cultural strategy over the following few years, should be saying to the local arts scene that it needs to step-change for the future, the current business as usual needs shaking up,” he said.

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“It is not a marketing exercise for the city, although the tourist business will pick it up. It is an opportunity to change the city. And over time, not over one year,”Mr Green said, citing the French city of Lille as an example.

In a response to Mr Green’s comments, Galway 2020 noted that the ECOC monitoring and advisory panel had indicated its satisfaction at its third and final meeting on September 15, 2019, and had recommended the city be awarded the EU’s contribution, as in the €1.5m Melina Mercouri prize.

It said the panel chair, Beatriz Garcia, had acknowledged and celebrated the hard work of the teams in both Galway and Rijeka, the Croatian city which will also hold the title next year.

“Steve Green as he suggests himself in his article is not familiar with the finer details of the Galway 2020 programme,” a Galway 2020 spokesman said.

Galway was named fourth best city in the world to visit next year by guide company Lonely Planet earlier this week.

Writer Margaret Attwood, Irish international artist John Gerrard and North American sculptor David Best of “Burning Man” fame are among leading participants in the Galway 2020 programme, which will open with a public event staged next February by Wonder Works, the British company behind Olympic Games opening ceremonies.

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