European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

In the spirit of Melina Mercouri

Sonderborg 2017 manager Else Christensen Redzepovic travelled Nov. 26th to Athens, Greece where she met Spyros Mercouris, brother of Melina Mercouri, to discuss with him matters related to the European Capital of Culture idea. Sypros Mercouris offered not only a friendly welcome and some practical advise, but also connected her with people he knew in Cyprus, including the ambassador of Cyprus to Greece. This cultural bridge was needed since in 2017 besides selecting either Sonderborg or Aarhus, there was to be selected as well a city in Cyprus as the European Commission has widened the concept from one to two cities a year. Even though that does not make much sense, it generates nevertheless a lot of energy and money as the investments made promise to do more than merely revitalize the cultural substance of the candidate city. For it alters the position a city assumes even during the bidding process within Europe. Some would call it cultural diplomacy, others the art of networking, while establishing contacts can mean for the decisive year to have readily available cultural resources which can and do sustain a programme for one year. As a matter of fact, there has developed a special interaction of experts linked to the European Capital of Culture. For example, Greg Richards is invited to make a presentation as to what counts based on studies he has made together with Bob Palmer. Sypros Mercouris was on the other hand honorary president of the ECCM Network which existed until 2010, in order to link former, current and future European Capitals of Culture. This meant passing on experiences already made and was even more useful as it gathered innovative personalities in cultural matters.


Seeking endorsement of Sonderborg 2017

Else Christensen Redzepovic and Spyros Mercouris


Else Christensen Redzepovic came to Athens, Nov. 26 - Dec. 1, in order to link up with Melina's spirit and to get to know through a personal contact with Spyros Mercouris a better insight into the intention behind her initiative for having every year a city being designated European Capital of Culture.

A first link between Spyros Mercouris and Sonderborg 2017 with Else Christensen Redzepovic being its managing director was made by Hatto Fischer.

Link to Spyros Mercouris

Connection to the spirit of Melina

Advise for any city seeking the ECoC title

Dialogue between cultures

Opening of doors due to having a name in Cyprus


Spyros Mercouris and Else Christensen Redezpovic on their way to the embassy of Cyprus


They passed the entrance to the Metro on Syntagma Square with traces of recent unrests


Introduction to the ambassador of Cyprus

Else Christensen Redzepovic with the ambassador of Cyprus

Spyros Mercouris, Ambassador, Else Christensen Redzepovic

Back at the house further contacts were made with people in Cyprus by Spyros Mercouris giving them a phone call to introduce Else Christensen Redzepovic as she planned to go to Cyprus after her stay in Athens.

Spyros Mercouris works every morning in his office. He has a colossal capacity to remember things. For instance, he never writes down any appointment, but keeps it nevertheless and is always on time. Also having grown up in an age without Internet, he prefers to read texts which he can hold in his hands. In his life he has seen and spoken to many people of all walks of life, whether prime ministers or people in the streets of Athens. He did not wish to become a politician although he had the chance when Andreas Papandreou asked him to join. His sister did and she became the First Minister of Culture once PASOK came into power in 1981. From then on he was her practical support. Once the Council of Ministers had agreed to her proposal and Athens was selected to be the First European Capital of Culture, she left Greece for nearly six months and left all the work to be done in the hands of her brother Spyros. He became the first coordinator of a European Capital of Culture when Athens started this project in 1985.

Else Christensen Redzepovic in the office of Spyros Mercouris


Visit to the Benaki Museum

A guided tour was given by Haroula Hadjinicolaou who had already gone to Cyprus on behalf of Else Christensen Redzepovic to prepare the ground, so to speak, for her to come and follow up the contacts already made. Haroula Hadjinicolaou works at the Benaki museum, and there for the children section, but also as curator for special exhibitions and cross-departmental events organized by the Benaki museum.


Studying artefacts in a famous museum can enlighten the visitor about some wrong pre-notions about Greece i.e. in not having had any contact with the spirit of Enlightenment.

Ancient Grave stone

(special meaning - text to follow)


At the same time, the museum was at that time trying out something innovative. It gave its space to artists to do artistic interventions within the permanent collection. Thus an interesting dialogue between artefact with a historical dimension and contemporary expression was brought about.

Installation of a bed


Scarecrow in the museum

Figure just sitting there

Such a visit was in search of ideas which can help refine the bid to be made on behalf of Sonderborg. Sonderborg did not get the title in the end. However, this trip by Else Christensen Redzepovic end of November 2011 reflects how much effort is behind such a bid. Many kinds of investments have to be made, in order to build up the bid and to give it substance. It meant back then a search for advise as much as inspiration through this contact with Spyros Mercouris, Haroula Hadjinicolaou, Anna Arvantaki and Hatto Fischer.

Mrs. A. Mercouri and Else Christensen Redzepovic on the roof of the house of Mercouris


The next day Stephan Kleinschmidt, Town Councillor and Chairman of Culture and Business of the Sonderborg Municipality to meet Spyros Mercouris as well and to step into the atmosphere of Athens for one day.



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