Although Storm Ciara forced cancellation of the open-air event, EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan officiated at the formal handover of the European Capital of Culture title.
Addressing hundreds of organisers, volunteers and artists in the Galmont Hotel, Mr Hogan said that on his work travels “from Helsinki to the Azores and from the Hague to Athens”, Galway is often mentioned as a “beautiful Irish city of culture and creativity... But I must admit that my native city of Kilkenny is often mentioned in such terms,” he said, to laughter.
Public safety had been the overriding concern in the decision to cancel the event in Claddagh’s South Park, due to the orange weather warning issued by Met Éireann. Up to 40,000 people had been expected to attend the “fire and flame” display by British company Wonder Works, with involvement by 500 community participants.
At the indoor opening, Galway 2020 chairman Arthur Lappin pledged that the Galway “phoenix” would “fly again”, and acknowledged how “gutted” everyone felt. Galway 2020 chief executive Patricia Philbin said that while the event licence could not cover a rescheduling, “elements” of the opening ceremony may be incorporated in the programme later in the year.
Ms Philbin said insurance costs may cover some of the cost, and noted the “fire tour” events in six county towns over the preceding week had been a great success.
Artistic director, Helen Marriage, paid tribute to the many “voices, musicians, drummers, chanters” and volunteers who were due to participate, with her voice breaking as she expressed her deep sadness: “It has been suggested to me to start a crowdfunding campaign..so you are all in the firing line."
Galway’s St Nicholas’s collegiate church marked its 700th anniversary yesterday, and the 2020 programme has already begun with sculptor John Behan RHA’s exhibition, entitled “Migrants”, opened by President Higgins in the Kenny Gallery.
A number of free events on the “Imbolc” or Spring section include the “Hope it Rains” project, and Finnish artist Kari Kola’s illumination of Lough na Fooey in mid March.
Branar Theatre’s much-anticipated production, Sruth na Teanga, for children and their adults opens in Galway Airport, Carnmore, on March 2.