‘Confidence crisis’ for Galway 2020 City of Culture, ex-mayor says

Questions raised about creative director position amid reports of resignation

A former Galway city mayor has said that there is a “confidence crisis” over the future of the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture project.

Fine Gael councillor Pádraig Conneely called on Galway's city manager on Tuesday to confirm if creative director Chris Baldwin was resigning, or if he "had already done so".

The British theatre director was appointed to the post 10 months ago and has been on sick leave for some weeks, according to Galway 2020.

Cllr Conneely, who is chair of a council strategic policy committee with responsibility for the arts, said he had invited the chief executive of Galway 2020, Hannah Kiely, to attend the committee's meeting on Tuesday but she was unavailable.


He called on Galway City Council chief executive Brendan McGrath to give “clarity” on the situation, and said he had serious concerns about projects, governance and funding.

‘Complete confidence’

Mr McGrath told the meeting he had “complete confidence” in Galway 2020, of which he is a board member.

Mr McGrath said he would love to be able to answer questions being put to him, but he was bound by confidentiality constraints as a member of the Galway 2020 board.

He said there would always be “issues”, as “one can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”.

There were “things” that were “ongoing and will be brought to a successful conclusion shortly”, Mr McGrath said.

Galway had "put its best foot forward" in securing the Capital of Culture title for 2020, he said, and would be representing Ireland in Europe and on a world stage with a "world-class programme", he added.

Cllr Conneely also raised concerns about the post of Galway 2020 business engagement director, which had been offered to a candidate and was then withdrawn a week later.

He asked Mr McGrath to clarify the “financial implications”.

Cllr Conneely noted that Galway City Council had already invested €3.2 million of a promised €6 million in the 2020 project, while Galway County Council had given only €500,000 of its €6 million pledged.

The Galway 2020 €110,000 creative director post was advertised in late 2016 and Mr Baldwin was appointed and began work last summer. He was previously curator of interdisciplinary performance for Wroclaw, Poland, a 2016 European Capital of Culture.

The director,writer and curator wrote and directed two pieces of work for the 2012 London Olympics.

Mr Baldwin has not responded to requests from The Irish Times for comment.

Private-sector funding

The business engagement director post, which has a salary of €65,000 plus a “performance-related package”, was advertised through a Derry-based recruitment company with a closing date of October 25th last year. The appointee had been expected to raise up to €7 million from the private sector.

An applicant was offered the post in writing and was informed shortly afterwards the offer was being withdrawn. The applicant, a prominent Galway businessman, declined to comment to this newspaper last month, but confirmed that legal advice had been sought.

Language, landscape and migration were the three themes of Galway's bid for European Capital of Culture 2020, secured against competition from Limerick and the Three Sisters cities of Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford.

Earlier this month, some 52 projects were confirmed for “Small Towns, Big Ideas”, one of Galway 2020’s flagship projects.

Some artists have expressed concern about how the project generally is being handled, and about a potential funding shortfall. Galway 2020 has a €45.7 million budget.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times