AS Limerick formally launched its public campaign for the prized European Capital of Culture designation in 2020, the team behind it said it was “encouraging people to tell us their ideas, their dreams and ambitions” for the project.
The lengthy, two-stage process, begins with the submission of an 80-page document in October, outlining Limerick’s bid for the prized designation, which is regulated at EU level and is to be awarded jointly to an Irish and Croatian city in 2020.
Competition will be fierce from Dublin, Galway and the South East regional cluster of Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny, all of whom have launched their campaigns ahead of Limerick, a fact acknowledged by bid director Mike Fitzpatrick.
In particular, he agreed that the public consultation process, which will take place in June through a series of open forums and the utilisation of academic-led research, was something the Galway bid has been doing “a little bit longer”.
“But I suppose, what we do have is the reservoir of knowledge and engagement and project development that we saw last year. So it is a dual process.
“I would say we are running a little bit behind, but it is like a race, and we hope to jog along and maybe, hopefully, take over towards the end. That is being very ambitious I suppose, but I think we have to do this with a sense of confidence.
“I would be very clear about it, if we are going to lose, we have to lose well, so that it will build some items of kit that will help us on to 2020 and 2030,” he added.
However, the man who led Limerick City of Culture last year, said that the 2020 designation could be a “phenomenal game-changer for Limerick”.
“You would have a five year window of being designated on the way in and a five year window on the way out,” he said, when asked about the major potential benefits of getting the designation.
“Even if you did nothing at all, just having the brand name of European Capital of Culture, that in itself is worth many, many millions - in terms of reputation. So, it is unquantifiable. You can throw all sorts of figures at it, but it would really be a phenomenal game changer.”
Mr Fitzpatrick, who has been given staffing resources from the local authority to work on the bid, declined to state what Limerick’s bid budget would be. A host city for European Capital of Culture has never had a budget of less than €20m.
“What we have to do is commit a budget, and we have a draft budget in place, but as this is a competitive process, we won’t be sharing that draft at the moment,” he said.
“We will have to put in a very competitive budget, and I don’t think this is the moment to go public on that, but nearer the time we will be disclosing what kind of figures we are thinking of.”
Working with community groups and cultural practitioners, the team aims to stage free events across the city and county to provoke a discussion that will “inform the set of values and priorities” that will underpin it.
Sheila Deegan, city and county arts officer who is heading up the bid with Mr Fitzpatrick, said a series of public consultations will be held - based in Ormston House in the city - to feed into the proposal, along with economic and social impact studies of 2014.
“Our model of gathering the information is a unique one, because we are working with the School of Architecture and the Kemmy Business School through a process that they have developed, called the Intelligence Unit,” she said.
“The researchers will be thinking and listening and gathering - and then they will be compiling a vision and an ambition for us.”
Blind Boy Boat Club of the Rubberbandits was on hand to launch the new website and “identity” behind 2020, which was created with the help of local media organisation Piquant - and he said Limerick should “punch its way up and absolutely be Capital of Culture, because what we have here is actual culture. City of Culture was a huge thing and 2020 can be massive”.