A Truly Immersive Opening Ceremony


Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture has swapped the massive screens and stages of traditional opening ceremonies for a momentous Fire Tour, which will move ever closer to the city across the first week of February. Beginning with a turf cutting ceremony on Saint Brigid’s Day, unique and intimate lighting ceremonies will take place in Clifden, An Spidéal, Tuam, Ballinasloe, Portumna and Athenry on consecutive nights from 2 February, making way for a truly unforgettable open-air finale in Galway City on 8 February.

Masters of global ceremonies Wonder Works are producing the free, week-long event which will pay tribute to Galway’s stories past and present. “The opening ceremony is a big hour-long show and then we have lighting ceremonies in each town that week,” says Wonder Works Show Director, Steve Boyd. “It was a way of bringing the energy to the towns. Everyone can walk around, hear the percussionists, see the costumes, hear the music and chants. If they come to the opening ceremony after that, they will be a little bit ahead of the game and they can join in.” Schedules for lighting ceremonies in each town are available at the Galway 2020 website.

Join us in South Park, Claddagh at 6pm, Saturday 8 February for the big finale. There, casts of performers drawn from across the county and city will unite in a cacophony of sound and fire, to celebrate the passing of winter darkness and the birth of a new year. “We have people of all different skill sets and abilities, all different ages and gender,” says Boyd. “It’s very diverse. We’ve been able to do outreach and attract a lot of great people.”

This is an immersive and inclusive show with no central, elevated stage. The Opening Ceremony has something for everyone, regardless of age or ability. “If you’re there with your family, you won’t need to put kids on your shoulders to see anything,” Boyd adds. “There is no best place to see the show because it happens over a variety of different spaces. It’s new and exciting for us. Usually we’re stuck with a 50 camera show in a stadium. This is really fun because we didn’t have to worry about that. It’s all about what the audience will see, what the audience will feel and what the audience will hear.”

President Michael D. Higgins will officially inaugurate the year-long event which is anticipated to be one of Ireland’s largest, most complex cultural undertakings to date – encompassing more than 1,900 events, across 154 projects over the course of 12 months. The jam-packed, county-wide programme will traverse music, visual art, theatre, literature, film, new technologies, sports and more.

Boyd advises on an early arrival. “…there will be lots of bands getting the party started. Showing up at 5.30pm is a good time.” The evening marks a historic occasion for this place and its people with “music, fire, fun, chanting, call and response, poetry, boats coming in from the sea…” In the show director’s own words, “It’s the community coming together, having fun with each other, making art and celebrating each other.”



Please note that due to pyrotechnic features, there will be loud noises at the Opening Ceremony. If sensitive to noise, please bring ear plugs. This event is not suitable for dogs.

As all events take place outdoors, please wear appropriate footwear and clothing. Traffic restrictions will be in place and will be advertised locally. For more information, visit

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