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Rijeka and Galway start the Capital of Culture year

Rijeka and Galway start the Capital of Culture year

Rijeka / Galway – With major events, pop concerts and parties, the Croatian Adriatic city of Rijeka and Galway on Ireland’s rugged west coast have celebrated as new European Capitals of Culture.

For one year, the two coastal cities on the opposite ends of the continent want to attract international attention with thousands of programs. Located in structurally weak regions, they also want to develop ideas for shaping the post-industrial age.

The former factory and shipyard metropolis Rijeka went into the Capital of Culture year on Saturday evening. More than 200 participants created the “Opera Industriale”, a composition by Croatians Josip Marsic and Zoran Medved, for the opening ceremony. The work awakened the sound of the industry that had once made Rijeka great and was reminiscent of the rebellious punk rock that the city in former Yugoslavia was known for.

Orchestras, wild chants, two dozen electric guitarists, ten drummers, steam hammers, cutting torches and hundreds of spectators who were given cowbells in their hands created an impressive soundscape. Dancers from the municipal theater acted as shipyard workers. The cutting torches’ sparks made a mighty harbor crane look like a burning tree. Before the final fireworks the old partisan song “Bella Ciao” sounded in a groovy punk version.

The partisans were resistance fighters against the Nazi occupiers in World War II. The city of Rijeka, with a population of 130,000, is proud of its anti-fascist tradition. In the Capital of Culture year, it wants to present itself as a cosmopolitan and tolerant metropolis. Under the motto “Port of Diversity”, more than 300 programs with more than 600 events are planned. They are grouped around the topics of water, work and migration, which have shaped the place for centuries.

British pop singer Ed Sheeran dedicated a folkloristic hymn to the former Irish fishing village of Galway with its colorful houses, 2000 kilometers as the crow flies: the love song “Galway Girl” about a girl who plays the violin in an Irish band. The song stormed the charts within a short time.

At the opening celebrations with jugglers, dancers and bonfires, you take your time. They will take place in several locations until February 7th and are based on the Celtic calendar. Galway’s program is “Let the Magic In”. In Galway, almost 2,000 events are devoted to language, landscape and migration. In the past decades, the former fishing village has blossomed into a city with 80,000 inhabitants, which is particularly popular with students. It is considered a stronghold of traditional Irish music and is known for its art scene.

The diverse offerings include an interpretation of an ancient literary epic, the story of Gilgamesh. An installation called “Borderline” is to commemorate the Brexit that has just taken place. Galway is just 160 kilometers from the border with Northern Ireland. And on the national day of St. Patrick’s Day, the Connemara Mountains will shine in green on March 17th.

The organizers also have a good sense of humor. Workshops on sheep’s wool are named after the bleating of the animals: “Project Baa Baa”. If you are annoyed by the rain in Western Ireland, the “Hopefully it rains” offer with wind installations and games in bad weather is recommended. “Galway is like Barcelona with rain, because it rains here 240 days a year,” said creative director Helen Marriage. Nevertheless, it is the most extraordinary place for them, at the end of Europe with a view of the Atlantic: “America is the next stop.”

The European Capital of Culture is an initiative of the European Union. Two cities are appointed each year – mostly from the old EU countries and one from the new ones. In Germany, Essen was most recently the European Capital of Culture with the Ruhr area (2010). The next time is Germany’s turn in 2025. Chemnitz, Hanover, Hildesheim, Magdeburg and Nuremberg have already been shortlisted. The second cultural capital in 2025 will be Slovenia.

Original article from ZVW dpa, 02.02.2020, 12:22 pm