If tourism is stopped and public events are banned, then of course the coronavirus will also have a severe impact on the 2020 Capitals of Culture.
Galway in Ireland has had it’s share of misfortune. Despite all the misfortunes in Galway, it is believed that their biggest event at the beginning of the year – a masterpiece by a Finnish lighting artist – has reached almost two billion people.
The coronavirus also crippled the Croatian Capital of Culture year. A new kind of ideas are now being created in Rijeka.
So how will Galway and Rijeka go through the crisis?
Some storm, some corona
The Galway Capital of Culture project 2020 had some problems already during the preparation. In the fall of 2018, the Irish Times headlined that “Key people have left, only half its budget is in place, and its vision is unclear. What went wrong?”
After difficulties the Galway program was finally brought together. And the program was great. However, the misfortune continued immediately at the opening: the storm hit the British Isles and the culmination of the opening had to be canceled completely.
A visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge a little later brought a huge amount of publicity to Galway, but then corona struck, and much of the repertoire was suspended.
In April, Galway laid off its staff except for the core team. At the end of April the Galway project finally announced that “Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture has today confirmed it has reached agreement with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to consult with Galway 2020 cultural partners to explore options for a re-imagined programme of events to take place in the closing months of this year and in early 2021.”.
The pearl of Galway’s unfortunate initial program was a Finnish act. The lighting work by lighting artist Kari Kola illuminated the mountains of Connemara in the largest work of light ever. Originally, the work was supposed to become a massive tourist attraction and public event, but the virus changed plans. The work was made, but now it can only be viewed as a digital recording.
Kola’s work Savage Beauty was enormous in scale. About 1,000 light sources had been placed in the mountains for about five miles. Since there is no road going to the area everywhere, some of the lights were taken to the scene by helicopters.
“Despite the disappointment of the public being denied access, the amount of media coverage has reached almost 2 billion people”, reports the Light Sound Journal.
Croatia’s Rijeka announced in April that most of the program has been temporarily suspended due to the corona pandemic.
Rijeka promised on its website that while a significant portion of the budget disappeared with the corona, the core team will continue to design the revamped program. “The new program proposal jointly drafted by the City of Rijeka and RIJEKA 2020 LLT has been submitted to the Ministry of Culture and the Primorje – Gorski kotar County as basis for consultations and negotiations regarding the future implementation of the project.”
The organization had to lay off as many as 59 employees for indefinite period.
Rijeka has also been actively looking for new forms of culture for the corona era. A press conference on the subject delivered new ideas: The opera focuses on arias and duets. Ballet does “micro choreography”. A Drive-In theater will be built for the movies. Puppet theater as outdoor performances. Literary clubs via Zoom and so on.
Same type of innovation takes place in Galway also: Everything is now online.
Due to coronavirus Galway and Rijeka had bad luck in their Capital of Culture year. This year is largely lost.
But the Capital of Culture is a strong institution. Cultural events of the year will be organized later, or in a new way, perhaps on a smaller budget, but they will be organized nonetheless.