Henk and Róisin in Galway
Henk and Róisin in Galway

A Tandem Visit to Galway and Theatre57

Tandem Cultural Capitals participants Henk Rigter (Leeuwarden) and Róisín Stack (Galway) have been investigating the wider European context of their respective organisations Mooiedingenmakers and Theatre57. Henk tells us about his placement visit in Galway this summer.

On the evening of August 4th, I arrived in Galway at the house of my Tandem-partner Róisin Stack from Theatre 57. Róisin, or Ró, had made dinner and so I was welcomed with a proper meal, over which we talked just about everything. After all, during our time in Croatia, where we found our Tandems, there wasn’t a lot of time for chit-chat. That’s okay of course, but it was very nice to get to know each other a bit better. And that’s how we spent the rest of the evening; talking about stuff and walking around on the Galway promenade.

The next day we set out to discover the Galway region since we think that our respective regions play a big role in our project. Our project Creative Mapping focuses on how creative and cultural freelancers live and work in non-urban areas. What the project would be exactly, was to be decided during this placement. We are quite sure that our surroundings have a great impact on our personal and professional identity. And so, a tour of the countryside had to be made.

Well, Ireland is beautiful and so is the Galway region. Even when it rains. And it poured. The entire day. So really, there wasn’t a lot to do besides driving around. The rain was so relentless, that sometimes we couldn’t see beyond 50 meters, which was a shame. The Killary fjord in Connemara which we were supposed to admire, was hidden by a dense blanket of pouring water. And so we drove back, discussing how the cultural and creative industry in Galway has evolved through the years.

Henk and Róisin in Galway
Henk and Róisin in Galway

Upon returning from this liquid journey, we had a drink in The Black Gate, a cozy cultural bar in Galway, where we met up with a handful of Theatre57 members. It was very interesting to talk to them and to learn how they sometimes struggle with topics that could almost be deemed as ‘communal’. Lack of professionalism, for example, is something that affects freelance makers everywhere. Especially in rural and non-urban areas.

The next day, Róisin and I walked around town and met with some key figures in the Galway cultural life. Most talks were quite interesting. James Harrold, for example, seems to know everything when it comes to culture in Galway. Most helpful was professor Pat Collins, who specializes in cultural geography & creative industries. He had very strong ideas on our project and really made us feel that we were on the right track. Also, we met and talked with Siobhán O’Malley, the representative for Galway 2020.

On our third and last day, we set out to hone our project a bit more. By now, we knew that we wanted to focus on organizations like ours: what made them successful and what can we learn from each other? And if we know this, what are we going to do with that information? Will there be a conference, a book with best practices, or something else? And what kind of organizations do we want to research?

We decided that we wanted to commit ourselves to grassroots organizations from (former) European Capital of Culture (ECOC)’s in non-capital areas, that deal with the same kind of creative brain drain as the Galway and Leeuwarden area. We’ll start with a pilot, where we research a maximum of five organizations. How we’re going to do that exactly is something that we’ll figure out in the weeks after this placement.

In the afternoon, we set out to discover Galway City a bit more. I must say that it’s a very fun city. Very lively and colorful. Róisin, meanwhile, also did some volunteering in a charity shop where I visited her. What a saint this woman is.

And so my placement came to an end. It was very interesting to learn more about Róisin and her organization, Theatre57. Talking to the various cultural experts and having some time together to talk and ponder about our project proved to be very fruitful and I can’t wait to welcome my Tandem partner in Leeuwarden.