And Ireland’s European Capital of Culture 2020 is . . . Galway

Limerick, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford were also in the running for title

Galway has been named European Capital of Culture 2020.

It saw off competition from Limerick and the Three Sisters cities of Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford. Dublin got knocked out of the competition at the end of last year.

At the announcement in the National Concert Hall on Friday, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys said it would give the city "a wonderful opportunity to showcase its cultural richness".

She said the award will bring the city "an unprecedented focus" at local, national and international level. "It will allow Galway and Ireland as a whole, to put our best cultural foot forward and promote the best of Irish creativity," she said.


Chair of the 10 judge panel, Steven Green from the UK, said that in selecting Galway, they had applied six criteria. These included "(a) the cultural strategy of the city. What is the long term approach; (b) where is the European dimension? It's different to the Irish capital of culture, it's the European city. It's an international project; (c) the programme. What are you going to to? The big events,the small events, the community events."

The fourth category was participation. “How do you engage with people? Not just the cultural sector but schools, youth groups, the new Irish as they’re called; and two managerial criteria (e) have you got the money? and (f) how are you going to manage it?”

He said that in arriving at their decision, the judges had not been influenced by Galway’s track record culturally. “No, the aim of the programme is entirely future so what the city is now and what it has done in the past is not an influence,” he said.

A delighted Mayor of Galway Cllr Noel Larkin said Galway is now recognised as a real city of culture. "We've been very culturally orientated for a lot of years but we'll now be recognised across Europe and they've given us the highest accolade they can give us," he said.

“We’ve more work to do. We’ve a wonderful city. We have to include a lot of multi-nationals into our culture and work with them to make our city a much more multi-cultural city”.

The 10 judges were Steve Green (United Kingdom); Jordi Pardo (Spain); Suzana Zilic Fiser (Slovenia); Ulrich Fuchs (Germany); Aiva Rozenberga (Latvia); Pauli Sivonen (Finland); Sylvia Amann (Austria); Cristina Farinha (Portugal); Agnieszka Wlazel (Poland) and Alain Hutchinson (Belgium).

All have arts, cultural or Europeanaffairs backgrounds.

They arrived in Ireland last weekend and visited the contenders in groups before meeting themselves in Dublin on Thursday and Friday morning to consider which city (or cities) will become European Capital of Culture 2020.

Galway’s theme as European City of Culture 2020 is Making Waves – Landscape, Language and Migration. Its total budget will be €45.75 million

More details online at

Wires Crossed: a Balancing Act for Europe Highlighting the importance of mental health while promoting risk-taking and adventure, the project partners, Galway Community Circus and members of Caravan, the European network of youth and social circus schools, will train more than 40 people from across Europe to learn funambulism (tightrope walking) in the run-up to 2020.

This will lead to a dramatic gathering and tightrope crossings of the River Corrib, one of the shortest yet fastest rivers in Europe.

Galway Ghost Train: The Speed of Light Working with the Glasgow public-art group NVA, to celebrate the Galway-Clifden railway line, which is now being developed as a 75km cycle greenway, the project will involve hundreds of runners and cyclists wearing wireless-controlled LED light suits. These are choreographed to create a series of live performances of sound, movement and light on the route, interacting with the cityscape, local landmarks and the coastline. Similar Speed of Light events have been created by NVA for Edinburgh, Yokohama and the Ruhr.

Project Baa Baa! A mini-festival in June, this one celebrates sheep. Looking at the shared cultural heritage of Europe and North Africa, and with a street feast, exploration of fabric, weaving and knitting, fashion, poetry, folklore, myth and religion, plus the chance to help with the lambing season, it should be lots of fun. The project is produced by the Galway cheesemonger Seamus Sheridan, in association with European Collective of Sheep Farmers and Shepherds.

Hy Brasil In the run-up to 2020 the children of Galway will imagine Hy Brasil, the mythical island seen off the west coast every seven years, into being. Aided by storytellers, writers and artists, they will look at questions around philosophy, governance, social inclusion and justice, environment, art, culture and legacy. Aimed to showcase the power of teaching through the arts, the results will be facilitated by a team from Poetry Ireland, alongside Danish theatremakers and UK-based environmental artists, but what happens in the end will be entirely up to the children.

Bid legacy The Galway bid book presents more than 50 projects, including special events from the city stalwarts Macnas, Druid, Galway International Arts Festival, Galway Film Fleadh, Branar and Music for Galway. With more than 500 active volunteers already in place, the project manager for Galway 2020, Patricia Philbin, says: "Having witnessed the enthusiasm and commitment that the people of Galway have placed in this process, we felt it was important to honour their involvement with a concrete commitment to deliver these cultural projects within these communities."

Galway 2020 has already committed funds to a range of cultural projects, some of which have already begun, that will take place regardless of their success in the judging process. One of these is Hope it Rains, led by Ríonnach Ní Néill, which will create weather-interactive instruments, and words that appear only in wet weather.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton contributes to The Irish Times on art, architecture and other aspects of culture