Taking the dynamics of second tier city of Galway as a case study, this paper sets out to answer two simple and related questions: How important has culture been to the city's economic and social development, and how integral is culture in maintaining the city's economic and social sustainability? In order to provide answers, we look at the city's development in relation to an emerging body of literature concerning creative cities. We focus on production of culture and gauge its assimilation into the economic life of the city by looking at various facets of the city's economic structure, including the technology sector.The aim of this paper is to look at cultural policy in Ireland under three interrelated domains: Technology; Institutions; and Spatial Culture (encompassing the place of public performance in urban morphology). The case study of a second tier city provides interesting insights for policy and practice as well as cultural/creative activity arising out of place specific circumstances. The paper explores the changing role of culture and concludes by drawing attention to the tensions surrounding the perceptions of ownership of culture and questions to what impact this will have regarding the city's sustainability into the future. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.