British company behind Olympic Games opening ceremonies booked for Galway 2020

British company behind Olympic Games opening ceremonies booked for Galway 2020
Zoe and Michelle McGuire enjoying French performance company Gratte Ciel, as they perform alongside Galway musician Anna Mullarkey, at the launch of the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture programme. Picture: Eamon Ward/PA Wire

A “dramatic illumination” of Connemara mountains, snapshots of Homer’s Odyssey on Galway beaches and tightrope walking across the river Corrib are among highlights of the Galway 2020 European capital of culture unveiled on Wednesday evening.

Writer Margaret Atwood, Irish international artist John Gerrard and north American sculptor David Best of “Burning Man” fame are among leading participants in the €39 million cultural programme which was released at a public event in Eyre Square attended by Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan.

Wonder Works, the British company behind Olympic Games opening ceremonies and Queen Elizabeth’s golden jubilee, has been booked for Galway 2020’s opening event next February when a street “invasion” will be preceded by a series of bonfires “erupting” in villages and towns throughout the county.

Artistic director Helen Marriage said the programme would follow the Celtic calendar and would conclude in January 2021 with a “glittering gallery without walls” created by Lumiere Galway, a collaboration of artists working with light.

Several thousand people attended last evening's event in Eyre Square, and copies of the 2020 programme will be delivered to every home in Galway city and county, the organisers say.

Presenting some highlights, Ms Marriage singled out a “moving” tribute to almost 800 infants and children recorded as having died at the Bon Secours home in Tuam, Co Galway, and a “temporary monument to ending division” involving artist David Best and members of Derry’s community.

A “radio soap opera” of stories from the Travelling community, and a collaboration between US artist Jenny Polak and migrants, particularly those caught in direct provision, will also feature, she said.

“Hope it rains” is the title of a project devised by Ríonach Uí Neill which marks the west of Ireland’s cultural relationship with weather and the issue of climate resilience.

It is inviting people to become “citizen inventors”, working with experts in art, design, sport, and science on renewable energy, weather-proofing, green infrastructure, outdoor play, health and well-being, and heritage projects.

Ms Madigan was joined by Galway 2020 chair Arthur Lappin and chief executive Patricia Philbin to witness French performance company Gratte Ciel’s giant umbrella suspended from a crane, while musician Anna Mullarkey performed a specially composed piece for the event.

The 154 projects will present 1,900 events – a total that includes repeat performances - and there will be “key role” for the Irish language, Ms Madigan noted.

“The programme also has strong connections with Britain and regardless of the outcome of Brexit I wish to state that Ireland remains fully committed to engaging through arts and culture with the UK,as well as our EU partners and globally,” Ms Madigan said.

The minister acknowledged concern about a long-term legacy for Galway, which lacks cultural spaces, when she said that a sub-committee would be established to examine this.

Galway International Arts Festival has recently briefed Minister for Communications Richard Bruton on the potential of An Post’s buildings in Galway city, which it “borrowed” and refurbished for this year’s arts festival’s visual programme.

The programme will open several weeks after controversial restrictions on busking in Galway city centre come into force next January.

Asked to comment on this, Ms Marriage said in her personal opinion that while “everyone has to operate within the law”, it would be a “huge shame” if the impact of busking was diminished.

Galway 2020 has expressed confidence that sufficient funding will be raised, following a year of controversy when it lost its first creative director, chief executive, chairwoman, operations officer, and several board members, including former EU commissioner Maire Geoghegan Quinn and Galway arts festival chief executive John Crumlish.

Budget cuts of between 30 and 40 per cent were imposed on arts projects, forcing Druid Theatre Company to pull one major production, but Druid is presenting a series of one-act plays throughout the city and county next year.

The project, which originally had a budget of €46 million when securing the bid, has a guaranteed €25 million in State funding.

The project recently awarded a €200,000 contract to a British company to monitor and evaluate the 2020 artistic programme in collaboration with NUI Galway.

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