Every European Capital of Culture has been unique. Each city has responded to the designation in a manner that reveals its own nature, its strengths and challenges, its continuities and moments of redefinition. A small city at the Celtic fringe of Europe, cor has reponded in a personal manner, imbued with a sense of the lyricism of the individual artist, yet animated by the resources of a wide and creative Europe.
Through out determined and hugely successful series of Public Calls, our city has spoken to Europe and Europe has come to us, as an equal partner in making, as an equal citizen in one great Parliament of Ideas. Through 2005 these ideas will be embodied and ventilated through exhibitions, concerts, performances, sports competitions, workshops, lectures, broadcasts and publications. We are not shy about disclosing what we mena, but what we mean in response to the Designation ‘European Capital of Culture’ is revealed through an entire year of activities. The meaning is disclosed continuously in 2005 through those constant activities of looking and making.
We are thrilled that the moment of Designation is upon us in 2005. We embrace the idea of Europe wholeheartedly, yet, because of our history, we are conscious of the pain of difference and the realities of discordant politics. We acknowledge these differences between peoples, the energy of differing national characteristics and the poetry of every unique locality within Europe.
In programming for Cork 2005, we have become conscious of the energy within difference and conscious of the tremendous orchestra of voices – all different, humane, yearning to be heard in the house of Europe – that now enrich the soul of our European Capital of Culture. Our ambition has been nothing less than to capture the soul of the present moment. In Cork, we celebrate that great new Civil Code of being human. In programming for our year as Capital of Culture, we have captured a great deal of the creative personality of Europe as well as the soul of our own locality. This is what we meant to do from the beginning.
From the beginning we had hoped to be true to ourselves, to be conscious of the scale of our small city whilst being responsive to the obligation placed upon us by Europe. Many of the major projects of Cork 2005 embody cultural actions at a European level, projects such as Enlargement, Cork 2005 Translations Series, Relocation and Caucus come to mind immediately. But we have also remained close to the place where art happens, close to creative individuals like visual artists, architects, poets and performers. For the entire year we mean to demonstrate that culture is personal. We intend to let artists speak, we intend to hear film directors explain, we intend to see ceramicists demonstrate, we intend to allow local communities to make, interrogate and curate.
There is a strong community-wide tradition in Cork of public lectures, debates, seminars and demonstrations. Our programme reflects a diversity and rigour of debate of the issues affecting us: the urban landscape, heritage, society, the concept of home, the critique of sport. Cork 2005 began its journey by encouraging enquiry. We want to ask questions as well as find answers, to open the Capital of Culture to the possibility and the value of analysis.
It is now over 100 year since Cork celebrated its Great Exhibitions, and a generation since we celebrated Cork 800. Our designation as European Capital of Culture is a more complex and challenging moment, for we celebrate not only for ourselves in Cork, but for Europe and for our nation within Europe. Through our actions and interventions in many areas of cultural life, from film-making to sport, from poetry to MP3 music and Deejay Exchange, we have extended the area of cultures within Cork to embrace different communities and acknowledge our place within Europe.
Cork is a Festival City. We have woven a new fabric of cultural activity through that festival year, enhancing the experience of festivals through unimaginable additionality. We are grateful to the Directors of all festivals and venues within Cork who have responded to the Designation and worked with us to create a unique year. We have placed artists in every discipline at the core of our programming. But we have also worked with our Partners, our Sponsors and business leaders to ensure a year of sustained excitement and enjoyment. We thank them for their commitment and enthusiasm. Through 2005 we will have many critical disputes and divided opinions; for artistic and broad cultural communities thrive in that atmosphere of polarised and vectored opinion. But one thing that can be guaranteed is a year of enjoyment. For enjoyment is what we do best of all: where we sport and play, where we invent memory and discover meaning.
Cork is a beautiful city, hidden and unexpected, uncovered only very slowly by visitors who stay a while to explore the lanes and galleries, the shops, markets, pubs and parks. It is a small city in European terms, but with its won spiritual and political centre of gravity in terms of Irish life. For near 100 years it has been a city of literature, music and film. Now as it turns with confidence into this historic moment as European Capital of Culture, cork develops vibrant new cultural narratives in performance, architecture and community action. All of these new narratives will be played out across the fabric of a brilliantly restored and enhanced cityscape. While we worked independently at programming, the City Council worked brilliantly night and day to renew our city of limestone and sandstone.
The moment of newness is upon us. We sought this moment as an ambitious and fun-loving place. In 2005, Cork opens its arms to Europe, and Europe speaks to itself through us. Welcome to this new moment.