13. December 2022
Silke Jäger

Show running or not…?

At least one city has been named European Capital of Culture every year since 1985. In the beginning it was mainly the big cities: Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm, for example. But now it’s the smaller towns that invite visitors to the culture show. The EU Commission presents the cities and the application process on this website.

For twelve months, the European Capitals of Culture shine with a wide range of cultural activities: theatre, music, dance, literature and art. Above all, the cities present the creativity of their inhabitants. Because part of the concept is to develop the program “from the bottom up”: Participatory culture – from the city for Europe. Among other things, the aim is to strengthen the feeling that all EU citizens belong to the common European culture. It’s about the feeling of togetherness, about exchange and encounters – but also about the cultural revival and the boosting of tourism.

Of course, this is not possible without extensive preparation which costs a lot of money. Therefore, the following question arises: What will this mean for the city in the long term? A report by Deutschlandfunk, which is well worth listening to, is devoted to precisely this question. Using selected examples, it illuminates very different aspects of the award procedure, the orientation of the cultural offer and the effect. For example, Liverpool has thrived since 2008 when it was European Capital of Culture. The dreary, aging industrial site has become a lively city that uses its heritage and has transformed itself into a welcoming meeting place.

But things don’t always turn out so well. There are also examples that show: The year of culture can be a flash in the pan. Then the spirit of departure disappears again after twelve months and inspiration no longer finds any points of contact. Vacant stores, isolated installations with no connection to the environment and empty tills are left behind. But most of the time, the memory of a good year remains.

Whether the intention is sustainable or just short-lived is decided long beforehand. That is why the candidate cities have four years to prepare for their year of culture. By now, 50 cities have carried the title. This has resulted in a wide range of experiences from which candidates can draw their lessons. It’s exciting to deal with the stories of the European Capitals of Culture! But that’s of course nothing in comparison to a visit to the Capital of Culture. In 2023 we have three opportunities to do this when Elefsina (Greece), Veszprém (Hungary) and Timisoara (Romania) hold the title. Enjoy the cultural experience!

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