Sunday, 24 May 2015

Headford 'Speak Out' - Gaillimh 2020 Galway - Re-imagining Headford

It was very interesting to finally put names to faces but also a great opportunity to hear new ideas. 

Here's the contribution I made to the 'Speak Out.'

Re imagining Headford

Today, May 22nd, 2015 could be a huge turning point in Ireland's history. Today is a day, when we as a people, have a chance to effect great change.
Change for the better.
Change which can only have far reaching and positive outcomes for those who are marginalised by society as it is.
Change therefore is a good thing, a thing to be embraced and worked through. Indeed our very existence is based on change itself.

The past number of years have been a grim period in the history of the State. Buried atrocities have come to the surface and we, as a people, have been forced to acknowledge and take ownership of this murky past. This however, is a necessary step towards progress. We can only grow and learn from our mistakes. In order to heal, we must first look at the root of the disease, confront it and adopt strategies for healing it. The same could be said on a personal level but on a community level also.

It is fitting that on such a historic day as today, that we have this forum to discuss the cultural re-imagining of Headford. One of the charming aspects of Headford is it's lack of self consciousness ( something I gravitated to when I originally came here over twenty years ago.)  There are no pretensions about the place. What you see is what you get. It's therefore, a great backdrop for creative expression and a good blank canvas to work on. It is important to reflect on the transition this town has gone through. Once it was a thriving market town, whereas now, with some exceptions, it is essentially a dormitory town. The vacant premises on Main Street, are a haunting presence which signifies how the town has yet to re-imagine itself. As it can never be the commercial hub it once was, it's infrastructure is crying out for an alternative use. This is where I think the focus should be. This is a wonderful and unique opportunity to really envisage a culturally thriving town brimming with potential and possibility.

Much of Headford's charm is tied up in its surrounds. We have a sprawling network of ancient monastic sacred sites. Headford is the gateway to Connemara, it is situated close to Lough Corrib, yet bus loads of tourists by-pass Headford daily. Why is that? What can we do to change it?
Why is it important to foster tourism?
The first and most obvious answer is the commercial imperative but the less obvious spinoffs are the new energy that visitors bring with them and how they can alter or enhance our own perspective on the place.

We also need to acknowledge that there is an awful lot of cultural activity already happening in Headford as it is, but a lot of it goes under the radar.

How can we showcase it?

Here are my suggestions:


Establishing an interpretative centre which would combine a cultural centre, a museum, tourist office and in extension, a cafe and local crafts shop (in the empty bank building on the corner of Main Street.)

Establishing  a number of on street artists studios (in the existing unoccupied shops) where in addition to providing artists with workspaces, the artists are on hand to interact with public and showcase their work. It would be essential that there is no commercial imperative here. I'd propose a rent and rate free tenure for a fixed period. The obligation on the artists part would be to maintain a consistent & welcoming presence to all visitors and engagement with the community (visiting schools etc...)
In order for this initiative to work, a lot of attention needs to go into how these spaces are designed and presented. A uniform approach is required and the spaces need to be attractive.

This has been mooted with Headford Development, so the idea is already in the ether.

A coach car park and clear signage for the area would also be a prerequisite.

But before this can all happen, clearance needs to take place and a collective consciousness, regarding the intentions for the streets usage needs to be established.

Torch light processions are a wonderful way to unite communities and if the overall intention is to reignite Headford, what better way to do it than at night? The procession could start at the top of town and end at the square with a bonfire and fireworks.

'Love Headford' mural

Library - Presentation College Headford
Children's Art Gallery Headford - 2012


.   Galway (city & county) is developing its bid to host the European Capital of Culture in 2020. We are competing with bids from Dublin, Limerick and the South East region to win the designation of European Capital of Culture 2020.

·       Bids will be submitted in October 2015 and then the competition will be reduced from 4 to 2 with the winner being announced in September 2016.

·       If successful, the lead in period (2016-2020) is as important and in some ways more important than the title year itself. This period will see sustained activity aimed at building the capacity of cultural institutions and local communities in the broad field of culture.

·       The title year 2020 will see a year long programme of artistic, cultural and community events and projects.

Some of the defining features of the Galway 2020 vision and bid are:

§  We’re taking a broad definition of culture. One that includes the conventional art forms like music, dance, theatre and film etc. but also includes areas like sports, technology, education and cultural diversity.

§  We’re taking an inclusive approach. We want to encourage all sections of society to engage and participate in Galway 2020. We want to identify the barriers to participation in cultural activities for marginalised groups and work to remove these barriers between now and 2020.

§  We’re taking an open approach. We want to hear peoples ideas about what Galway 2020 should look like. We want to hear about existing and new projects that can be part of the overall Galway 2020 initiative. We want to create an environment for people and groups to collaborate and contribute to Galway 2020.

Some underlying themes for Galway 2020 are:

o   This is a Galway city and county initiative so we need to have a focus on creating greater connections and integration between the city and county.

o   Our projects need to have a European dimension and outlook. They need to connect with common European and international themes and issues.

o   Galway 2020’s ideas and projects need to be original, challenging and innovative.

Get in touch and get involved!

Website:           Facebook: Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture