Sunday 19 November 2017

Culture capital judges accused of taking safe option in Galway

COUNTY WEXFORD'S Arts Officer Liz Burns told the meeting that the Three Sisters Capital of Culture bid was up against a city which was preparing for the competition for 15 years having lost out previously.

Ms Burns said the judges' report highlighted many positives from the Three Sisters entry but also spoke of a lack of links with European cities and areas which have similar cultural linkages between towns and cities.

Director of Services for Housing, Environment and Emergency Services John Carley said the Three Sisters bid was no better or worse than the other bids. 'The judges had to make a call. They said we had a strong cultural and artistic offering and areas of improvement included more collaboration between the three counties and the EU dimension hadn't been developed enough.'

Mr Carley said arising from the bid there is now a regional arts strategy in place and plans to develop a film industry in the counties. He said under the South East Action Plan for Jobs there are many plans, including for crafts and design. Councillors welcomed Ms Burns into the position of arts officer.

Cllr Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin said following successful film shoots on Saving Private Ryan, The Sea, Brooklyn and most recently The Lodgers, there is plenty of scope for developing a film industry in the region. He said County Wexford takes in €65m in tourism revenue annually and the arts play a major role.

Cllr Oisin O'Connell said: 'I don't think enough praise can be given to the volunteers who worked on this. They had a real passion and love for what they did.'

Cllr O'Connell said more resources need to be devoted to the arts and culture in County Wexford, adding that only nine people from the county worked on the bid compared to more than 30 people in Galway. 'We were doing this without an arts officer. The arts and culture are not a frill, they are important,' he said.

Cllr George Lawlor said it was great to have an arts officer on board. He said amateur drama and musical groups across the county need to be supported more as they are intrinsic to the artistic life of the county and they pack venues, big and small. 'It was unfortunate that they (the judges) didn't grasp it. They gave it to Galway which has a vast amount of arts and cultural events. It was like giving a hurling development grant to Kilkenny. They chose the safe and the easy option in my view.'

Mr Carley said: 'We feel we had sufficient people working on the bid. I'm not sure if we had 109 people working on it that we would have fared any better. We fared as well as we could given the circumstances. As a council we are very strong on supporting the arts.'

Cllr Deirdre Wadding said there are not enough tax breaks and supports for artists.

'I know artists on Job Pass schemes doing their CVs every Thursday. It's up to us to put pressure on the Government on behalf of artists.'

She said she would love to see some of the new Ironman film - which was penned by Eoin Colfer - shot on the Saltee Islands, where some of the action is set.

Cllr Wadding said the county also needs a writer's centre.

Ms Burns said if the council had identified European cities that had strong links to neighbouring towns and cities that would have helped the bids' chances, adding that if the urban and rural brand had been better established it would have been advantageous.

'But Galway have been preparing for this for 15 years. They had hundreds of volunteers lined up. I commend the volunteers in Wexford,' she added.

Cllr Jim Moore said the region embarked on something unique, adding that the region has never before come together in such a meaningful way, which augurs well for the future. Cllr Robbnie Ireton said the county, patriculalry the Gorey area, has fantastic artists. 'Many never got a great education because God gave them a great talent and they should be recognized as equally as anyone else.'

Cllr Johnny Mythen praised the council for increasing the arts budget every chance they can. Mr Carley said over the next six months Ms Burns will be developing a strategic plan for the arts in the county and will meet with all arts bodies and councillors. CEO Tom Enright said the council has not had a full time arts officer for five years, adding that more resources will be allocated to the arts in 2017.

He said the region matched Galway in terms of the resources allocated to it.

'The nine volunteers put in a huge amount of time and they were hugely disappointed not to receive the nomination. The most important thing was getting us all working together.'

Cllr Paddy Kavanagh said the judges could have been a little more adventurous with their decision.

Wexford People

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