Galway’s year as European Capital of Culture “could not be more timely” amid changing political relationships, a senior diplomat said.
Ireland’s ambassador in London, speaking just weeks before the UK is due to leave the EU, hailed culture as a “very effective instrument of soft diplomacy”.
There were celebrations and live performances in Galway on Wednesday evening as the city celebrated the launch of its Capital of Culture programme.
Chair of Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture, Arthur Lappin and Irish Culture minister Josepha Madigan were among those in the city to celebrate the beginning of the year.
Ambassador Adrian O’Neill said culture can be successful in “challenging mindsets” in a way that brings people together and is “non-threatening”.
He spoke at a briefing in London as the city on the west coast of Ireland launched its programme of arts events for 2020.
He said: “As we now try to kind of maybe reset political relationships during difficult times, I think we need culture more than ever.
“And we need culture as the glue that brings us together and binds us more closely.
“So I think Galway 2020 could not be more timely and I’m sure Galway 2020 will be a very, very effective demonstration of the power of culture to do all of that.”
The county will be ablaze in a week-long festival of fire to launch the programme in February, as flames move through six towns and villages in an ancient pagan Celtic tradition, ahead of an opening ceremony in the city.
Highlights of the 12-month project, which cost 39.7 million euro, include a talk by The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood, and an art installation called Borderline, involving communities in the county working with those from across the border in Derry.
The Connemara mountains will be lit up in green for St Patrick’s Day in March in a commission entitled Savage Beauty by Finnish artist Kari Kola.
Galway shares the 2020 title with Rijeka in Croatia.
President Michael D Higgins said: “The festival will provide uniquely Galwegian, Irish and international perspectives exploring those quintessential Irish themes of language, landscape and migration.”
He said the festival will become a celebration “of the local, national and European communities of which we all are part”.
Funding for the programme comes from the Irish Government, Galway City Council, Galway County Council, and the European Union.
- Press Association