Plovdiv European Capital of Culture 2019


Last weekend, Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria, launched its European Capital of Culture (ECoC) 2019 programme and hosted an opening ceremony to mark the beginning of its historical year.

Some of the Galway 2020 team, along with teams from other ECoCs, visited Plovdiv over the weekend to be a part of the celebrations, and to experience a European Capital of Culture in action.

Over the course of an extended weekend, a series of events took place at various indoor and outdoor spaces across the city. Its highlight was on Saturday, 12 January, with the ‘We are all Colours’ opening ceremony. The multi-tiered stage live show involved 1,500 participants, traditional Bulgarian folk dancers, 200 choir singers, a brass orchestra and a musical and laser spectacle produced by Berlin-based arts collective Phase7.

Attended by over 50,000, Fintan Maher, Galway 2020 Communications Director, said the level of community and youth engagement at the ‘We Are Colours’ event was truly impressive.

“With over 1,500 participants from Bulgaria and internationally taking part in the opening event, it was wonderful to see such engagement. The volunteers were also amazing, and as we will be launching our volunteer programme soon, it was great to see their volunteer programme run so well.”


The opening weekend, which ran from 11 to 13 January, gave a taste of the type of cultural offerings that will be available throughout the year. On Friday, Smoke. Tobacco Stories, an exhibition by some of the most renowned Bulgarian artists, opened on Friday. The exhibition features archives, photography, video, film and art works that explore the history of Plovdiv through the tobacco industry. Kapana 2019 The Beginning presented live performances of prominent Bulgarian musicians, and was a fun and lively event to start off the packed programme of events. Art Liberty – From the Berlin Wall to Street Art opened on the Saturday to mark the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The only travelling collection of original fragments of the Berlin Wall came to Plovdiv, marked by an exhibition and a series of talks, short movies debates and concerts.

D’Ambrosio Brass Orchestra from Matera, which is also hosting a European Capital of Culture 2019, played on the open air stage on the square –  just one example of the collaborations between European Capitals of Culture.

Matti Allam, Galway 2020’s International Relations Manager, said it was great to experience a European Capital of Culture in action, and the pride of the locals.

“One of the best ambassadors for Plovdiv 2019 was a waitress in a Lebanese restaurant who proudly told us everything there is to know about the opening weekend and making us feel welcome.”

Galway 2020 Cultural Producer, Kate Howard, said it was a wonderful opportunity to observe such an event.

“On our visit, we met with the Plovdiv and other ECoC teams and took lots of notes, while enjoying some of the opening programme. It was really good to experience an ECoC launch in action.”


Next weekend sees the Matera 2019 European Capital of Culture opening ceremony, which we will report back on next week.

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