Rīga (Latvia) and Umeå (Sweden) are the European Capitals of Culture in 2014. The cultural programme will officially begin on 17 January in the Latvian capital and on 31 January in Umeå.

Umea (Sweden)

Umea (Sweden)

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: “This is the moment that Rīga and Umeå have been preparing – and waiting for – since their selection as the European Capitals of Culture. The opening events will mark the beginning of what will be a tremendous year of cultural activities, aimed not only at people from the city and surrounding region, but also at those coming from much further afield. The European Capital of Culture has been a fantastic success story for almost 30 years: the title is a unique opportunity to make the most of a city’s cultural assets and boost its long-term development. The title is hugely important for tourism, job creation and regeneration. I wish both 2014 Capitals of Culture every success.”

Rīga will open its festivities with special events at museums, cafes and other venues, including exhibitions on Baltic amber and on the impact of the First World War on culture. In 1989, during the ‘Baltic Way’ campaign, the people of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania formed a human chain to express their hope for independence from the former Soviet Union. On 18 January, the people of Riga will stand up for culture.Members of the public will recall the events by passing books from hand to hand, from the old National Library to the new building on the other side of the Daugava River.

Commissioner Vassiliou, together with EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, will participate in various events including the launch of ‘Taste and Feel 2014!’ which will offer the public a taste of the year’s cultural programme.

In the evening, at the river there will be fire sculptures created by teams from 12 countries – Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, France, UK, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, USA and Australian- lightshow and fireworks. The city Mayor, Nils Ušakovs, will later host a concert at Riga Arena, in the presence of Commissioner Vassiliou, entitled ‘Rīga through centuries and cultures’. The concert will feature Latvian classical, world and popular music artists, choirs and orchestras.

The launch of Umeå 2014 will take place over the weekend of 31 January to 2 February, day and night, with the opening ‘Burning Snow’ ceremony on Saturday as a high point. The city’s residents will gather with guests from all over Europe to witness the launch of the year.

The main events will be held on and around the Umeälven River, with a choreographed festival of light, music, song and movement. The ‘City of Winter’ will be transformed with burning pillars of ice and fires to provide light, warmth and meeting points. The heart of Umeå, Rådhustorget, will be turned into a Sami village with glowing cauldrons and reindeer.

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