LIMERICK can put forward a “very competitive” bid for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2020, according to the man who has lead the city through 2014’s national year of culture.
Mike Fitzpatrick, director of City of Culture, was responding to news that Limerick has officially launched a bid for the European designation.
A tender process is now underway to secure consultancy services to prepare the bid, while a local steering group - led by the local authority and comprising community, business interests and public representatives - will be set up to “direct and oversee preparations for a bid proposal”.
Asked by the Limerick Leader to gauge Limerick’s chances of success in a likely bid process against Galway and a cluster of cities in the South East - Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny - and coming on foot of the stint as the first ever Irish national City of Culture, Mr Fitzpatrick said: “I would say it will be very competitive.
“I am hoping, from our point of view, that Limerick has a great story to tell, we are known for our cultural city - we have had a fantastic year,” he said.
“Limerick has to set out a strong ambition of being European Capital of Culture, but win, lose or draw, we will gain something out of that.
“It is hugely ambitious (and) it is certainly is a big task,” he added.
Galway has stolen a march on Limerick by already announcing and beginning to staff a bid, while the clustering of the South East cities would be seen as a hot favourite - despite being without precedent in the project, which began in 1985 and has, to date, been awarded to more than 50 cities across the European Union.
European documentation stresses that the key priority for the designation is to foster a European identity and create co-operation across member states and the bid proposal must reflect this.
The impetus for the bid must be driven by the local authority, and paid for out of council and central government funds, with a relatively small initial award - in the region of €1.5m through the EU Creative Europe programme - on offer.
However, the advantages would be huge. Limerick has previously bid before, losing out to Cork in 2005.
Josephine Cotter Coughlan, Director of Community, Arts, Culture and Emergency Services in Limerick City and County Council, said the idea was to give culture “a real chance over a six-year period to help in delivering the economic, social and cultural benefits for the city”.
“City of Culture set the seed for using culture as a driver both socially and economically and we have embraced the European dimension of artistic and cultural life through the programme delivered in 2014,” she said.
Arts officer Sheila Deegan, who has worked on City of Culture, said: “You couldn’t have asked for better timing.
“The premise is about tapping into the local culture, but with a European dimension and making those connections, showing how culture connects people within Europe, so this year we have had loads of opportunities to do that,” she explained.
“All of those networks and conversations that have been started, can be built on now.
“One of the things you have to produce as part of the bid is a cultural strategy for your region. We are in a good position because a lot of questions have been asked about this sector, and where it goes to next.”