‘Invest in education’

Professor Declan McGonagle.
Professor Declan McGonagle.

The man credited with reinvigorating the Derry arts scene has called for investment in culture and education locally.

Professor Declan McGonagle insists only an “invested education system” can deliver for the future.

Prof. McGonagle made his remarks at the annual dinner of the St Columb’s College Past Pupils’ Union at which he was awarded the Alumnus Illustrissimus 2012 award.

The Derry man - now based in Dublin - is one of the most influential figures to emerge from the Derry arts scene. He was shortlisted for the influential Turner Prize in 1987 with the citation praising his role in making Derry’s Orchard Gallery and the city an international centre for the artist.

Speaking at the Past Pupils’ event last weekend, Prof. McGonagle said his whole working life had been dedicated to “showing how the visual arts and visual literacies can be integral and essential to healthy communities and to society.”

Turning to the ongoing recession and what he termed the “resetting of expectations and ambitions”, Prof. McGonagle said: “We need a new kind of economy, an economy which includes social and cultural capital as well as economic capital... in effect, we need a knowledge economy; we need to make knowledge as well as goods and products.

“We have knowledge in this city, we can make new knowledge in this city so we have to have an invested culture as well as an invested economy. Without both, and without the social cohesion which culture provides, we will not have a healthy society.”

He added: “There must be investment in education. Only an invested education system will deliver the new, broader competencies that we need for the future - for what some commentators have called the ‘next society’.

“I am hopeful that... art and design and the arts, in general, will be enabled to make their considerable contribution to that future.”