Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture’s Head of Programme, Marilyn Gaughan Reddan, has been involved in 2020 efforts since day one.
She currently oversees the cultural programme and manages a “brilliant core team of five programmers, a photographer, community engagement manager and assistant producer” alongside Artichoke creative director Helen Marriage and Head of Production, Pearse Doherty. Having worked in the arts in Galway for almost 23 years, she sees the coming year as an opportunity “to show what we can do on a world stage, while also bringing internationally acclaimed artists to Galway.”
Summing up the initial bid process, Marilyn says, “it was about our people – their participation in this place, as well as our place in Europe.” The European aspect is not to be overlooked. Entering talks with local organisations, she found that many were already working closely with European partners. “Branar Téater do Pháistí for example were very well connected, co-producing with companies in Denmark and Scotland. Galway Community Circus are another organisation creating incredible work with no less than ten European partners.” In developing relationships with our fellow 2020 European Capital of Culture, Rijeka and other European communities, Marilyn has discovered common ground in unexpected places. “Issues such as rural depopulation, isolation and mental health – all of these are being addressed in our projects. The European dimension is critical in highlighting that the issues we face locally are the same as those faced across Europe.”
A number of projects from Galway-based organisations for Galway 2020 have already been invited to future European Capital of Cultures, which demonstrates just some of the legacy potential from 2020, and Marilyn stresses the importance of European cooperation in ensuring a legacy beyond next year. “At the beginning, it was a matter of turning a global spotlight on the quality of the work produced here. For me, now, it is ultimately about legacy. Career sustainability for individuals within these Galway organisations is absolutely crucial.”
Marilyn breaks into a laugh as she recalls attending a street theatre production in another city with her daughter, where the skeptical 7-year-old remarked that it “certainly wasn’t Macnas.” Growing up with pioneering organisations like Macnas, Druid and Galway International Arts Festival, children of her daughter’s generation expect a certain standard. “We have a very well-developed audience for the arts in Galway thanks to the people continuously making work here. I would love for my children to experience a future where sustainable careers are available to artists and cultural workers. Along with the team, hope to play a part in supporting that infrastructure in whatever way we I can.” According to Marilyn, infrastructure and sustainability are “a key legacy that has to happen.”
“We have a very well-developed audience for the arts in Galway thanks to the people continuously making work here. I would love for my children to experience a future where sustainable careers are available to artists and cultural workers.”
Sustainability is at the forefront of 2020’s Small Towns Big Ideas flagship programme, which partners with a range of community groups across the city and county. This is an excellent chance for local groups to be part of a European programme.
The projects within the programme itself are very layered. “Every project has a local partner and a European partner or theme. It might have an Irish language strand, an education strand – these are complex projects.” Schools in particular are heavily involved in projects such as Branar, Baboró and Hope it Rains. Then there is Symphonic Waves, Galway 2020’s youth orchestra built in collaboration with Music Generation Galway City & County, which will soon launch a Symphonic Schools programme for classical music tuition in schools.
There is nothing simple about planning a programme of this scale. “Sustaining enthusiasm and managing expectations from the point of winning to the point of delivery is very difficult, but I’ve learnt that every problem is an opportunity to have a different conversation.” When tackling these challenges, Marilyn remembers that day of designation in July 2016 and looks forward to the programme launch on September 18. “The day we won still gives me goosebumps. I still well up with pride, because those people are the reason we’re doing this – they’re what keeps us going.”