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Galway 2020: 15 Culture Capital highlights, from street fairs to circus spectaculars

From street fairs to light shows, immersive theatre to circus spectacles, here are the highlights of Galway 2020

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Macnas in Galway. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

Macnas in Galway. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

All the queen's men

All the queen's men

Image courtesy of Kari Kola

Image courtesy of Kari Kola

Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson

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Macnas in Galway. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

This year, Galway is a European Capital of Culture 2020, along with the Croatian city of Rijeka. The calendar is going to be jam-packed with cultural events not just around city and county, but from the bogs of Connemara to the Aran Islands. Most are free - think theatre, dance, street fairs, exhibitions, circus, and a hell of a lot of craic.

When does it start?

Beginning February 1, St Brigid's Day, a 'Fire Tour' of lighting ceremonies will kick off in towns and villages across the county. The road trip from tomorrow to February 7 takes in An Spidéal, Tuam, Ballinasloe, Clifden, Portumna and Athenry, before a final opening ceremony in Galway City next Saturday.

And then?

Galway 2020 events run all year until January 2021. The last hurrah will be Lumiere Galway, which will see the city transformed by numerous artists through large-scale projections, light sculptures and interactive digital installations.

What's all this 'Imbolc' and 'Bealtaine' business?

The year-long programme is being split into four sections celebrating the old Celtic calendar - Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain. Imbolc marks the start of the year to come, Bealtine will be a feast of the senses, Lughnasa celebrates the sense of community, and Samhain reflects on what has been, and what's to come.

Here are 15 great things to do throughout the year...

1. Hope it rains

This project wants to make Galway the place to be when there's a downpour, and also seeks to change our relationship with the weather. Weather-activated surprises are presented throughout 2020 including installations with broken umbrellas and an outdoor festival - Bad Weather Play Date - offering rain-painting, mud kitchens, puddle jumping and more.

2. Gilgamesh

A breathtaking theatrical journey awaits with Gilgamesh, a new version of the world's oldest surviving literary story from Macnas and written by Marina Carr. Consummate storytellers Macnas bring their performance to Galway across the four seasons with the story beginning to unfold in fragments in spring and moving outdoors for summer. (March/April/June)

3. Sruth na Teanga

The history of the Irish language is presented as an immersive theatre experience in Sruth na Teanga from Irish theatre company Branar Téatar do Pháistí. Combining music, puppetry, animation, interactive digital technology and live performance, the forces and landscapes that shaped Gaeilge are conjured up in this poetic interpretation suitable for adults and children aged eight-plus. (March 2-29)

4. Wild Atlantic women

As part of Galway 2020's celebration of International Women's Day, world-famous author Margaret Atwood comes to town to talk about her career and her latest novel, The Testaments. The Canadian feminist's appearance is already sold out, but it rounds off a weekend-long programme of IWD-related events, which also includes Belfast author Jan Carson, winner of the 2019 EU Prize for Literature Ireland, in conversation with Galway poet Elaine Feeney. (March 7-8)

5. Savage Beauty

Finnish light artist Kari Kola illuminates the Connemara mountains in an attempt to create one of the largest lit artworks ever for his project Savage Beauty. Kola and his team will use new technology to 'green' the mountains around Lough na Fooey, coinciding with St Patrick's Day. (March 14-17)

6. All the Things I Lost in the Flood

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Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson

Multi-disciplinary artist Laurie Anderson (above) explores pictures, language and code in All the Things I Lost In The Flood, an intimate evening in St Nicholas' Church in which she shares revelatory insights into her creative processes. Anderson's other Galway 2020 project, To the Moon, a collaboration with new media artist Hsin-Chien Huang at the Mick Lally Theatre, runs from March 31 to April 2 and is a 30-minute immersive experience inviting you to walk on the surface of the moon. (March 31-April 2)

7. Project Baa Baa

This programme of 11 different events celebrates all things sheep-related. Project Baa Baa's line-up includes an international tapestry exhibition, a two-day symposium with speakers from farming, research, design and eco innovation; a banquet curated by Michelin star chef Enda McEvoy and a special event where Galway Hookers will sail into Galway, bringing wool on the old cargo route from Kinvara to the Claddagh. (April-June)

8. Druid: The Galway Tour

Theatre company Druid embarks on a large-scale tour presenting some of the great Irish 20th-century one-act plays including On the Outside by Tom Murphy, The Rising of the Moon by Lady Gregory and A Pound on Demand by Sean O'Casey. The performances take place across Galway county from Portumna to Clifden to Inis Meáin and more. (May 7-July 5)

9. Hoops

A weekend of sports and culture, in association with Basketball Ireland, comes to Eyre Square with the Hoops project. Using the 3X3 basketball format, where each game is to 21 points or 15 minutes long, expect competitions on the pop-up court as well as wheelchair basketball games. After dark, the links between urban culture and street basketball are made explicit with a lively mix of skateboarding, breakdancing, parkour, DJs and musicians. (May 15-17)

10. Crossing the Line

Over 100 artists from Ireland, Sweden, France, UK, The Netherlands and Poland are coming together for Blue Teapot Theatre Company's festival Crossing the Line, a first-of-its-kind featuring work made by artists with intellectual disabilities. It takes place across multiple venues with a hub in Father Burke Park which will host daily events and an opportunity to meet the artists. (May 20-23)

11. Fun Run

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All the queen's men

All the queen's men

All the queen's men

Australian arts company All the Queen's Men present their community-engagement project Fun Run, inspired by Greek messenger Pheidippides, who ran to Athens without stopping to announce the Persians' defeat in the Battle of Marathon. Anchoring the five-hour spectacle is artist Tristan Meecham (above), who will run a marathon on a treadmill at Salthill Park with cheerleading performances from community and school groups. (June 27)

12. Wires Crossed

Roll up, roll up for what is being touted as the largest circus spectacle ever staged in Ireland. Wires Crossed will see 400 people of all ages cross the fast-flowing River Corrib on high wires over a time frame of 2020 minutes. (August 6-9)

13. City of Light, City of Sanctuary

What does home really mean to those who are settled, and those who are still displaced? That's the question posed by City of Lights, City of Sanctuary, a project combining the work of Galway dwellers (more than 1,000, some newly arrived, others long established) and a team of international artists. Residents are making the work using simple materials and this floating, glowing city landscape is accompanied by a soundscape by composer Roma Yagnik. (September)

13. The Mighty Ocean

Acclaimed Galway musician and composer Máirtín O'Connor premieres a new instrumental suite at The Town Hall Theatre in September. Performed by the accordionist (who has appeared with De Dannan and Riverdance) as well as a large band of musicians, The Mighty Ocean presents a musical dialogue between the environment and humankind, touching on the threat to endangered oceans and the power of the sea. (September 4)

14. Unsung

Taking place at the edge of Tuam, Unsung remembers the lost children of Galway. Nighthouse Studio, led by US artist Elaine Buckholtz, acknowledges the lives of mothers and children who were subject to institutional neglect and abuse from the 18th to the 20th century. Her work uses video and light in relation to sculptural forms, digital prints and pre-existing sites and under the cover of darkness. (November)

15. West words

The Stinging Fly publishes and promote the best in new Irish and International writing -a special Galway 2020 issue of the magazine, edited by renowned Irish author Lisa McInerney, with Elaine Feeney as guest poetry editor, will feature all that is great in contemporary Irish and European writing, the programme says. It will also be organising a series of workshops, events and readings throughout the year. (All year)

For more info, see galway2020.ie.

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