In The Spotlight: San Sebastián, European Capital of Culture 2016

Photo: Keta (Wikimedia Commons)

While it might be a city known for its great surfing, better food, and stunning vistas, this year San Sebastian in Spain is stepping into the limelight for an entirely different reason. Voted as Europe’s Capital of Culture 2016, the Basque city has more than 400 events and projects in the works, each designed to show off its artistic side. With 12 months of culture to look forward to, though, where should we focus our attention? While there are clear frontrunners in terms of events, the city has really pulled out all the stops; whether you like performance art, live screenings, or exhibitions, there are many reasons why you should make San Sebastian your travel destination this year.

To kick things off this month, January will come to a close with a cultural party packed with artistic events and city-wide community celebrations. The entire network of San Sebastian’s museums will open their doors to the public, inviting artists into their halls to create new works and exhibitions. At the same time, the city’s gastronomy world will be flung open to the public, running three consecutive programs in order to reinvent traditional Basque food. Youth groups, entrepreneurial support, and the world of publishing will all come together in order to understand the history of Basque cuisine and look at how it took over the entire region.

If the city’s artistic ventures focus on one thing in particular, it’s encouraging the next generation of creatives to step up to the cultural plate. Events like WhatsART will invite small groups of young people to incorporate a new art piece into their homes and neighborhoods. Given the time and space to “roam free”, the groups have the opportunity to expand their creative curiosity and bring new findings into their domestic spaces. How people live and how they create will, for the first time, interweave in the city.

It’s not just all about local art, either. Throughout the year, many European groups and creative companies have been invited to have their say in the festival, putting on some of the most diverse performance pieces seen in some time. The arrival of Sasha Waltz in March spells big things for San Sebastian’s dance scene. Coming in from Berlin, the contemporary dance group will put on a one-time-only show that is bound to delight audiences across the city.

Thanks to the city’s status, many prolific awards ceremonies are turning their attention towards Spain’s Basque region. In April, the lucrative International Classical Music Awards will take place in the city, drawing cultural attention from around the world. Hosting some of the most exciting musical talents from around the globe, the event looks set to make musical waves across the city and bring a new type of sound to the Latin region.

As well as celebrating San Sebastian’s rich history, the year of events will incorporate foreign culture. The Tosta event from April looks set to head this trend. Centred on linguistic diversity in culture, the event will visit seven small linguistic communities and promote collaboration between the different artists who reside there. While all eyes are very much on San Sebastian, the city is dedicated to maintaining a cultural tradition around the world, linking artistic communities during its year at the top.

Collectively, the city’s events will shine a light on every type of cultural niche and subsection out there, showing how even seemingly overlooked arts can be made part of something meaningful. Culminating in December with the European Language Diversity Summit, San Sebastian’s year is very much about inclusion for all. While it might be a small city, it is brimming with cultural life and, thanks to San Sebastian’s dedication to a more global and accepting artistic future, it looks set to make a huge impact over the course of the year.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.

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