Porto European Capital of Culture kicked off twenty years ago, this very same day

  • Dulce Pereira Abrantes

  • Article


Filipa Brito

Porto was European Capital of Culture twenty years ago, on 13th January 2001. Those attending the ceremony sensed that change was in the air, as most of the invitees arrived at Coliseu do Porto by bus, which was a symbolic way of showing that, in fact, change would come, as in calling attention to the fact that culture had to be accessible to all in society.

The inaugural concert, conducted by maestro Marc Tardue, had prominent figures attending, namely the then President of the Republic, Jorge Sampaio and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

Being designated European Capital of Culture can be the perfect opportunity for a city to boost the cultural events and associated social and economic benefits that come along. Porto was not found wanting and it really changed its profile and visibility at international level.

The short film by João Botelho "Cenas do Porto", with music rendition by Mário Laginha, namely the piece "Mãos na Pedra, Olhos no Céu", performed by the Porto National Orchestra, set the motto for a show that featured recitatives by Ponchielli and Tchaikovsky.

Moments before, the first exhibition devoted to Porto 2001 inaugurated at the Serralves Museum. "In the Rough" displayed works provided by the Museum of Rotherham, the city that shared the title of European Capital of Culture, that same year, with the Invicta.

It is fair to say that there is a before and an after Porto 2001. This was the starting point of a cosmopolitan city, culturally active and able to make a difference at global level.

“The great impact that Porto 2001 has had was the transformation and the intersection of audiences. That is, in fact, its legacy”, enhanced Rui Moreira, recently, on the occasion of the public presentation of Braga’s application to European Capital of Culture in 2027, granting his full support to this application.

“When we look at the city of Porto, where culture is absolutely important, as the air we breathe, it is good not to Forget that this merit – and I am comfortable to state this, because the merit is not mine, for sure – came from experimenting in 2001. We were able to create a distinctive demand, which is insatiable today”, highlighted Mayor of Porto, in Braga, during the same occasion, furthering that prior to 2001 “there was an elite culture in the city”.

One of the programmers of Porto 2001 was Paulo Cunha e Silva, former councillor for Culture, chosen by Rui Moreira for his Municipal Executive. Paulo Cunha e Silva passed away unexpectedly in November 2015, while on the job.

Owing to this project Porto 2001, “the citizen gained self-esteem and became, himself, the curator of his/her own ideas, the actor in the transforming process of his/her city”, declares Rui Moreira, who has adopted this matrix as the basis for his cultural project, which he defined with Paulo Cunha e Silva for the city of Porto.