One of the centrepiece projects planned for the Galway Capital of Culture 2020 celebrations is under threat of closure due to insurance pressures.
Last week, Galway Community Circus, a not-for-profit youth and social circus school, cancelled classes for its 650 members. While it reopened today with restricted insurance cover and some activities on hold, the school warned that 20 jobs are at risk and the future of the school hangs in the balance unless a long-term insurance solution is found.
The circus is a national organisation with 650 participants each week. Its programme is focused on physical and mental wellbeing, and it is supported by The Arts Council, Galway City and County Councils, HSE, Erasmus+ and Creative Europe programmes.
After months of searching, the circus school has secured just one insurance quote. However, it excludes aerial acrobatics and activities above 1.5 metres.
Ulla Hokkanen, executive creative director of Galway Community Circus, said: "The health and safety of our members has always been paramount. We follow best practice and rigorous risk assessments in everything we do, which is reflected in the history and reputation of our organisation.
Without national insurance reform, our organisation is in immediate danger of not being able to offer our services to the community, therefore leaving 650 Galway youths without the activity they have chosen as part of their personal, creative and physical development.
Galway Community Circus’ project for the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture is also in jeopardy due to the organisation’s current insurance roadblock.
The project, 'Wires Crossed: A Balancing Act for Europe' is due to be presented next August. A world first, it aims to address issues like mental health and suicide through the art of tightwire walking. It has been developed as a partnership across 10 European countries and is supported by €800,000 in European funding.
Patricia Philbin, CEO of Galway 2020, said that urgent reform is needed in the provision of insurance for voluntary and community groups.
"Galway 2020 is concerned at the challenge facing the future of our Cultural Partner Galway Community Circus and the industry as a whole," she said.
"As Galway, on behalf of Ireland, prepares to become European Capital of Culture in 2020, our aim is to showcase the very best of our culture, of which circus, street performance and sport plays a significant part in our year-long programme."
Peter Boland, director of the Alliance for Insurance Reform, said that the situation is the same as the one encountered by community organisations all over the country, adding: "Nothing the Government has done in the last three years has resulted in reducing premiums."