Galway Prepares to Ignite in Celebration


Towns throughout the county this week mark the beginning of Galway’s year at the cultural heart of Europe.

Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture has begun this week with a series of events throughout the county, which will culminate in a spectacular, fire-lit Opening Ceremony at South Park in Galway City on Saturday 8 February.

Events began on Sunday when a mass of flame and sound flooded the town of Clifden in a special community cast procession, culminating in the lighting of the town sphere, which will join with those of other towns in Galway city on Saturday evening. Fiery celebrations will take place in the towns of An Spidéal, Tuam, Ballinasloe, Portumna and Athenry over the next five nights.  Events will conclude in Galway City on Saturday when a huge cast of drummers, chanters and other participants will join together at South Park, the expanse of headland facing out to the sea near the city, for the spectacular open-air finale.

President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins will be joined by Ireland’s poets, artists and musicians for a once in a lifetime experience of fire and flame for the opening of Galway’s year as European Capital of Culture 2020.

The ceremony, which has been imagined as a timeless and authentic celebration of the people and traditions of Galway and Ireland, will be delivered in a largescale dramatic explosion of sound and vision.

Seven hand-carved steel sculptures, the town spheres, each reflecting the stories and traditions of the Galway town they represent will be transformed by flame into giant glowing orbs, and will light up the length of the Galway headland overlooking Galway Bay. Galway’s renowned red sailed fishing boats, known as the Galway hookers, will assemble illuminated in the bay.


At the ceremony, a new work by Louis de Paor, one of the most celebrated poets of the Irish Language, will be premièred. Entitled A Call to Ireland and specially created for Galway’s year as European Capital of Culture, the spoken word piece will feature the familiar voices of Caitlin Ní Chualáin, Olwen Fouéré, Bríd Ní Neachtain, Stephen Rea and Naisrín Elsafty.


Galway 2020 Creative Director, Helen Marriage said;

“This is an extraordinary moment for Galway and for Ireland. Over the coming week we will see the towns of Galway join the celebrations in a fire tour culminating on Saturday in a spectacular open-air show to mark the beginning of Galway’s year as European Capital of Culture 2020. The cast for the opening ceremony brings together hundreds of amazing participants from towns and villages across the County of Galway, who will transform South Park with drumming, chanting and flame. Saturday night’s ceremony will be like nothing we have ever seen in Ireland, and reflects the scale of our cultural programme that will unfold over the coming year. Galway 2020 has arrived!”


Gates open at 4pm and entertainment begins at 5pm with performances by Róisín Elsafty, Amazing Apples and No Crows. There will be appearances by Máirtín O’Connor, Seamie O’Dowd and Zoe Conway. Rofi James will close the show. You should plan to arrive in plenty of time so that you find a space and are ready for the main event which starts at 6pm. The approximate end time is 7.45pm.

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