Sunday 25 June 2017

'This is pity city, sh**ty city' - Galway poet skewers City of Culture in a savage ode

Poet Rita Ann Higgins exposes her hometown as a 'pity city, sh*tty city'

Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

Galway is jubilant this week-end after being awarded 2020 European City of Culture, but it is unclear if the EU jury that awarded the €1.5m prize got sight of an explosive poem about the City of the Tribes that was commissioned as part of the bid process.

The poem, written by Rita Ann Higgins, a native of Ballybrit just outside Galway, was commissioned by the Galway 2020 committee which successfully beat off the challenge of both Limerick and the 'Three Sisters' region of Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford, who were also vying for the title.

SCATHING: Rita Ann Higgins. Picture By David Conachy
SCATHING: Rita Ann Higgins. Picture By David Conachy

But the organising committee got more than they bargained for when Ms Higgins sent them her work.

They had, perhaps, been expecting a paean to the many glories of Galway extolling its manifest virtues as a gateway to the Atlantic coast, and an unrepentant bastion of the arts, the native language, music, dance, theatre and literature.

What they got instead was a devastating critique by Ms Higgins in which she rips into her native city.

Ms Higgins has always been an anarchic and provocative voice, but the poem Our Killer City is perhaps her most inflammatory.

She dissects Galway with some brutality, laying into its public representatives, its university, health services and makes overt reference to what she regards as local scandals.

That includes the outbreak of potentially fatal Legionnaires' disease detected in May in water tanks in Galway Fire Station on Fr Griffin Road.

JUBILATION: Locals take to the streets to celebrate after Galway was announced as the European Capital of Culture 2020, after it successfully beat off the challenge of Limerick and the ‘Three Sisters’ region of Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford
JUBILATION: Locals take to the streets to celebrate after Galway was announced as the European Capital of Culture 2020, after it successfully beat off the challenge of Limerick and the ‘Three Sisters’ region of Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford

And she rails against the car parking charges in the city hospitals, events in the local courts, the whiff of sewage on city streets and bias against Travellers.

"This is pity city, sh**ty city. Sewage in your nostrils city. This is Galway. City of expert panels. City of Slickers and slackers who name call Travellers knackers."

And she also casts a cold and angry eye on the treatment meted out to local artists using irony and sarcasm in equal measure to describe their exclusion.

"Raise the rents is the best way to keep the ripped jeans gang out, like it's always been."

The Galway 2020 committee did not respond to emailed queries from the Sunday Independent about the poem.

More than 2,000 people celebrated in Galway on Friday as the city was officially named City of Culture for 2020, an honour it will share with Rijeka in Croatia.

Jane Daly, programme manager for Galway 2020, said her initial reaction was "Disbelief followed by 'I cannot imagine what we would have done if we hadn't won!'"

"We're ready to go. We've already started - we've done nine pilots on some of our projects.

"Everybody from Druid to Macnas to the music hubs to Athenry 2020, they were just waiting for the green light and now they're ready to go."

Following the announcement of the winner by chairman of the selection panel Steve Green, Galway mayor Noel Larkin said: "It's a wonderful, wonderful day for our region."

Noting that "all bids were truly inspirational," Arts Minister Heather Humphreys congratulated Galway for its winning bid with its theme 'Making Waves'.

The judging panel will publish its reasons for selection in the coming weeks.

Ms Humphreys said positive events like the European Capital of Culture initiative are important symbols of freedom for all European citizens in light of the horror attack in Nice on Thursday night.

Excerpts from Our Killer City

By Rita Ann Higgins

Galway's bid to win Capital of Culture is all twenty twenty give the horse plenty.

We're in with a great chance, until they hear about the legionnaires' disease outbreak in the fire station, where our life savers need saving.

The birds are tweeting about the arrival of the jury this July.

The word is out they'll rule on the bid.

Best to keep them councillors out of sight, with the malarkey they go on with, in city hall.

Govern, govern my arse they wouldn't govern a sly fart on a runway.

We'll end up crowned the capital of fools.

 

My ogyny, your ogyny, misogyny.

We laugh about it at bus stops.

We say, aren't some of our elected representatives a laughing stock.

We'll never get Capital of Culture if they look through that window.

Some people live their lives so they can die on a trolley in Galway's A&E.

Just wait and wait and wait and you'll die waiting.

Eighteen million on a new block and not a new bed in sight or on site.

The swans in the canals all know, we underpay our nurses we underpay our teachers we overpay our consultants and we don't know why.

This is fair-play city, or unfair play city if you are a woman working for years in NUIG and hoping for a promotion.

Hashtag-go-Micheline-go.

 

This is pity city, shitty city.

Sewage in your nostrils city.

This is Galway city of expert panels.

City of slickers and slackers who name-call Travellers knackers.

 

If you want the odour of outrage ask the students at GMIT who have to re-sit exams.

Allegations of cheating.

Oh no not this again.

They are coming in July to rule on the bid.

We'll hide that bit of news about the GMIT and the gender discrimination in NUIG in the parlour that never gets used.

To that we'll throw the new block, the bedless block at University Hospital Galway.

 

This is Galway slicker and slacker.

Have your home burgled by your favourite nephew, while you are at his other aunt's funeral.

He didn't know it was her house and he didn't know taking her jewellery without her permission was stealing.

 

This is Galway the bidding city the forbidding city.

Where the woman in court apologised to her man for putting him through this.

The judge asked her, did he apologise to you when he was sticking that screwdriver in your forehead?

No but he wasn't feeling himself that day your honour.

 

To hell with local artists what do they bring the city?

nothing but scruffy dogs and ripped jeans, hippies with hobbies the lot of them.

As for the buskers, wanting to fit in with the odour of outrage.

Move them on, hide them in GMIT, or The Picture Palace.

Don't mention local artists at all.

Let it be like they don't exist.

Raise the rents is the best way to keep the ripped-jeans gang out, like it's always been.

Artists me arse.

 

This is Galway, the bidding city the forbidding city.

City of thieves or is it scribes or is it tribes?

The jury are coming this July, the word is out they'll rule on the bid, for Capital of Culture twenty twenty give the horse plenty.

We have a great little city here, a pity little city, a shitty little city.

Sunday Independent

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