Wroclaw and San Sebastian: European Capitals of Culture in 2016

The Polish and the Spanish cities will mark the 31st year of one of the most popular EU projects.

Wroclaw (Poland) and San Sebastian (Spain) are the European Capitals of Culture in 2016. The cultural programme officially started on 17 January in Wroclaw in the presence of Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport; and on 23 January in San Sebastian.

Tibor Navracsics said: “Being a European Capital of Culture helps cities create a sense of community and brings long-lasting benefits to their citizens and their economies. I wish Wroclaw and San Sebastian every success as they showcase their cultural programmes in the coming year.”

The opening of Wroclaw 2016 will took place over the weekend of 15-17 January with almost 100 cultural events such as concerts, exhibitions and shows. The main event on Sunday 17 January saw parades setting out from four corners of Wroclaw and converging on the central Rynek marketplace for the grand finale. The parades were be led by artists representing the four Spirits of Wroclaw (the Spirit of Many Faiths, the Spirit of Innovation, the Spirit of Rebuilding and the Spirit of Flood), stopping along the way to recount the city’s rich history. More than 2,000 artists, singers and musicians took part.

The motto of Wroclaw 2016 is Spaces of Beauty. This is based on the ideas of metamorphosis and diversity, drawing on the city’s unique history of transformation. Hundreds of inhabitants of Wroclaw will perform in major public events in 2016. Citizens were invited to run part of the programme through a “microgrant scheme”. During the year, the city will also become UNESCO World Book Capital, with a special edition of the European Literature Night. The programme also includes the International Jazz Day, the Singing Europe Festival and the International Theatre Olympics.

European Capitals of Culture are one of the most recognised EU projects. They were launched in 1985 on the initiative of the then Greek Minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri.

San Sebastian launched its European Capital of Culture year with a series of events over five days starting 20 January when the city’s grand fiesta, the Tamborrada, took on a European flavour. The official opening ceremony took place on Saturday 23 January, in the Victoria Eugenia Theatre, followed by a concert. The “Constelaciones Gaur” exhibition was inaugurated the day before.

The Donostia-San Sebastian 2016 programme “Cultura para la convivencia” (Culture for co-existence) promotes better ways of living together through art and culture. Three lighthouses will reflect the values underpinning the programme: the Lighthouse of Life (the individual and society), the Lighthouse of Peace (respect and co-existence), and the Lighthouse of Voices (diversity and mutual understanding). Programme highlights include the Peace Treaty, an exhibition of how peace and violence have been depicted in Europe; “Travelling Embassies”, a project that will bring artists of different nationalities to several European cities by ship, bus and bicycle to create, share and spread works of art which express linguistic diversity, among others. The ‘Waves of Energy’ programme will finance cultural projects proposed and evaluated by the citizens themselves throughout the year.