Meitheal spirit will see Galway 2020 deliver legacy, says President

Galway composer Anna Mullarkey performed a specially commissioned piano piece for the launch of Galway 2020's highlight programme on Wednesday in Eyre Square. 
Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Galway composer Anna Mullarkey performed a specially commissioned piano piece for the launch of Galway 2020's highlight programme on Wednesday in Eyre Square. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Galway city centre was a sea of colour and sound last evening (Wednesday ) when thousands flocked into Eyre Square to see the spectacular launch of the official programme of Galway 2020.

The programme with 2,000 events was unveiled by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan and Chairperson, Arthur Lappin along with Creative Director of Galway 2020 Helen Marriage, at the large open-air event in Eyre Square, Galway.

Galway 2020 is the largest and most complex cultural event ever undertaken on the island of Ireland comprising over 1,900 events across 154 projects, 170 partnerships and collaborations with local, national, European and international artists and cultural organisations from over 30 different countries.

The ambitious programme will take place across the villages, towns, islands and city of Galway and, in recognition of Ireland’s historic traditions, will be based around the four fire seasons of Ireland’s ancient Celtic calendar Imbloc, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain.

Galway 2020 will begin on February 1 with week-long fiery celebrations erupting in towns and villages across the county, culminating in a large public ceremony and spectacle on February 8 in Galway city. Seasonal ceremonies will mark the progression of the Galway 2020 programme, which will run through until the end of January 2021. To celebrate the end of a momentous 12 months for Galway as European Capital of Culture, the closing event will transform Galway into a glittering gallery without walls.

Speaking last evening, President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins said the journey that began when a small group of dedicated people presented the Galway 2020 bid book is now nearing the final and most crucial stage, the programme for the year is now unveiled.

“Galway 2020 will be an Irish programme, with universal relevance and resonance. The festival will provide uniquely Galwegian, Irish and international perspectives exploring those quintessential Irish themes of language, landscape and migration.

“Ours is a society that values the work of the imagination (‘samhlaíocht’ in the ancient Irish language ), and that appreciates the coming together of creativity, talent and a good story.

Samhlaíocht has been central in both the creation and redefinition of Irish identity throughout our history, and Galway 2020 rightfully celebrates its pivotal significance, too, for Ireland’s future.

“In the Irish language, a ‘meitheal’ describes the tradition in which people in rural communities gathered together to help each other with labour intensive tasks, on the basis of a sense of community and reciprocity. Likewise, Galway 2020, through its spirit of team work, inclusiveness and participation, will, I am sure, become a celebration of the ‘meitheal’ of the local, national and European communities of which we all are part”.

Launching the programme, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan said the European Capital of Culture designation is an exceptional opportunity to highlight to an international audience, not only the strength and vibrancy of Galway’s culture and creativity in all its many forms, but the importance of our place in Europe.

The programme, centred on the themes of migration, landscape and language, gives a flavour of the many exciting events that will take place across Galway city, county and the islands, as well as across the entire island of Ireland, many of which are in cooperation with partners from other European countries. I congratulate the team at Galway 2020 and wish everyone involved a truly successful year,” she added.

Galway 2020 will host 30 projects celebrating the Irish language; 125 world premieres and 135 Irish premieres. The programme themes of landscape, language and migration are interwoven throughout the programme with national and international artists responding to these themes.

There will be a special emphasis on the Irish language, reinforcing Galway as the capital of the Gaelteacht, home to the only bi-lingual city in Ireland.

Migration, which celebrates Irish history as well as the diversity of cultures in Europe, will be explored against the backdrop of Galway, a city where 24% of the population was born outside Ireland. And landscape, Galway’s position on the edge of Europe, as it prepares to become the cultural heart of Europe.

Creative Director, Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture, Helen Marriage said the event will reflect the fact that we live in challenging times.

“The world is shifting around us and our cultural community must take the lead, to find a voice or be the voice, to explore the past and shape the future. It truly feels like now is the time for Galway, on the geographic edge of Europe to be that leader. Artists have always led the way in this extraordinary place.

“Galway 2020 is built on the efforts of those who chose to live and work here over the last 40 years. These prophets of our future and celebrants of our past – our artists – hold up a mirror and show us who we are and where we are headed. Galway 2020 will be a year of radical thinking that will live long in the memory and influence all who follow behind.”

Chairperson of Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture, Arthur Lappin said the bid-book for the designation was a declaration of intent, to shake up our perceptions and excite our imaginations.

“I believe that this programme will be a catalyst to help us reflect on: how we see ourselves; how we relate to our neighbours - near and far; how we embrace our native culture and assimilate the cultures of those who have come to live here; and how we relate to our environment. It will help us to see things that were hidden and to rejoice in the discovery of our diversities.

“Today it is important and right that we acknowledge the commitment and imagination of the many individuals and organisations that collectively earned this national designation for Galway. Galway 2020 is the legacy of the ground-breaking creativity of many individual artists and cultural companies that have evolved in Galway over the past 40 years.

“Such is the scale of what is planned, that I believe there is a huge opportunity for all of us, as individuals and as communities, to recognise that we are all cultural beings - not just lookers and listeners, but makers and doers and responders also.”

CEO of Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture, Patricia Philbin said the publication of this programme marks another milestone towards an exceptional year of cultural celebration.

“I want to sincerely thank everyone who supported, promoted or played a role in achieving the European Capital of Culture designation and the development of the programme.

“With this programme we plan to have all eyes from Ireland, Europe and around the world turned towards Galway. This is an open invitation to join us in 2020 which promises to be one of the most exciting times in Galway’s history,” she said.

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