Fitzpatrick sets out stall for Limerick’s EU 2020 bid

Alan Owens


Alan Owens

'A competitive bid': Mike Fitzpatrick, director of City of Culture, who will head up Limerick's bid for European Capital of Culture in 2020, speaking at the meeting. Picture: Sean Curtin
SPEAKING at a meeting of the various pillar groups that were involved in City of Culture this week, Mike Fitzpatrick said that it was ‘day one’ of the European Capital of Culture 2020 bid process that he will now oversee.

SPEAKING at a meeting of the various pillar groups that were involved in City of Culture this week, Mike Fitzpatrick said that it was ‘day one’ of the European Capital of Culture 2020 bid process that he will now oversee.

The reality is that the City of Culture director has been preparing for this role for some time – at least since December, when he briefed the council – and has been given a blank slate by Limerick CEO Conn Murray to drive an ambitious and competitive, but ultimately very complex, bid for the 2020 designation.

The head of school in LSAD will remain on secondment for the duration of the process, at least until the first deadline of October 17, when the 80-page document must be presented. He has retained his core team from City of Culture – arts officer Sheila Deegan, plus council staff Helen Creed, Kathy O’Grady and Evelyn Noonan.

Mr Fitzpatrick will now be employed directly by the local authority – on secondment from LIT – with the City of Culture company shortly to be wound up. The local authority is also finalising a tender process to secure consultancy services to complement the bid team, while a stakeholder group will be appointed to aid in the process.

In the history of the European Capital of Culture, a host city has never had a budget less than €20m. This must be provided by a combination of local and State support – with limited funds available directly from the EU, €1.5m.

Mr Fitzpatrick acknowledged the “tight time frame” facing the team.

“What we hope to do is produce a very comprehensive, competitive bid. It is an interesting time and a bit of a rollercoaster personally,” he told the Leader.

“We did great training in the winter. We did a fantastic dry run - we have done an amazing set of things, so that is of huge benefit and that is what we are hearing. We have learned a huge amount of skills in that process.”

Conn Murray has started the process of putting together a ‘war chest’ of €600,000 to underpin programming plans for 2020.

Limerick faces strong competition from Galway - which has been preparing for 12 months and has a strong regional dimension to its bid – and the regional clustering of Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny, with Dublin also in the mix.

The Capital of Culture is regulated at EU level and awarded on an annual basis. It will be given jointly to an Irish and Croatian city in 2020, the third time Ireland will hold it, after Cork in 2005. An independent panel of 12 experts will judge the proposals, based on an initial 80 page document, presentation and site visits.

“We are doing it in reverse almost, we have done a year of culture, and now we are writing it. So it is a fantastic opportunity to really reflect and create something that is meaningful,” said Sheila Deegan.

“Our starting point is the local authority, with the people who were involved in 2014 - it is a bit like redeployment, suitably qualified personnel, going to ensure that the October deadline is met with the best possible story and narrative that we can tell.”

Outlined at Tuesday’s meeting were details of a social impact study on City of Culture, to be carried out by Theatre Forum, and which will feed into the 2020 bid, as will an economic impact study to be carried out by Grant Thornton. The results of both studies will be available in May.

Anna Walsh of Theatre Forum said that a local co-ordinator and ten researchers would shortly be hired to carry out that social impact study.

Arts practitioner Monica Spencer, a member of the Arts Council, warned the culture team that it must “engage” with people outside of the artistic community for the bid to be a success.

“2014 was a fantastic year for the artistic community, but there were loads of people who didn’t engage,” she said.

“I think they need to engage people to do that, it needs to be a proactive step on their part, and not somebody who sits in an office. A couple of people maybe who are in the community already - I think that could be quite radical. We need something radical, because there are a lot of people disaffected for many reasons.”