A European Capital of Culture is not a festival, it is much more than that. The year will see an extraordinary showcase of events highlighting the richness and diversity of Galway’s culture and its people. Our ambitious programme, most of which will be free, will be unleashed throughout villages and towns, the city and the islands, and in some of the most surprising and unexpected spaces and places.
Galway 2020 represents the legacy of decades of artistic endeavour and investment in the culture of this place. It is a climax of everything that has gone before and a stepping-stone to a future that will leave an improved cultural infrastructure and heightened awareness of the role of culture in society; a society that appreciates the role of its artists and the possibilities that they bring. This exciting year provides extraordinary opportunities for local people to create and participate in something beyond their wildest expectations.
The programme is a celebration of our city, our islands, our county, our language and our people, with the collective imagination of creative Galway on show for one magical year. It features the best of our local and national artists and cultural organisations, alongside incredible European and international artists who together will transform the city and landscape.
In recognition of our historic traditions, this programme is based around the four fire seasons of Ireland’s ancient pre-Christian calendar, examining the country’s roots in celebration and commemoration. It begins in February 2020, as does the pagan festival Imbolc, which represents the start of spring with its promise of new life and new beginnings. Following a spectacular, outdoor opening ceremony, the programme will unfold throughout the year according to the Celtic seasons of Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain.
The core themes that run through Galway 2020 are Migration, Landscape and Language and all three resonate within a broader European context, one where Galway will become a cultural focus in 2020. Migration celebrates Irish history as well as the diversity of cultures in Europe against the backdrop of Galway County and City – a city where 24 per cent of its population was born outside of Ireland. Landscape reflects Galway’s position on the edge of Europe as it collaborates with European partners to delight, challenge and engage citizens across its rural and marine landscape.
Language promotes the variety of languages spoken both in Galway and across Europe, celebrating their integral part of our unique cultures. There is a special emphasis on the Irish language in the Galway 2020 programme, reinforcing Galway as the capital of the Gaeltacht, home to the only bi-lingual city in Ireland.
Ireland stands as a nation that is proudly European. This is mirrored in our extensive engagement with over 100 partnerships, collaborations and artists from over 30 different countries. The programme is designed to ensure that each individual project will have a long-term sustainable relevance to both city and county. Created by communities and cultural organisations alike, each project has multiple local partners as well as a mix of regional or European partners. Our programme also focuses on issues that are part of a wider discussion on European concerns. At a time of increasing political uncertainty both in Europe and around the world, we want to reflect on 21st Century Ireland, what culture means to us and what it means to be European.
Leaving a lasting legacy, one that will change the social and infrastructural landscape of Galway, is key to Galway 2020’s success. We want to address the big topics of the day – identity, our place on the planet, how we care for its resources, how we live in harmony with each other and with nature, and our history and future. We want to see a Galway where young artists flourish, where communities come together to celebrate life. We want to see a Galway where creativity is rewarded, where culture is at the heart of everything we do, where life is made better for everyone who lives and visits here.
We plan to have all eyes in Ireland, in Europe and around the world to be turned towards Galway. There is an open invitation to join us in 2020. It promises to be one of the most exciting times in Galway’s history, with the potential to change our cultural landscape forever.