European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Essen / Ruhr 2010

'Kultur durch Wandel - Wandel durch Kultur'  'Culture through change - change through culture'

Ruhr 2010 Deutsch

Ruhr 2010  English



Being a former coal mining area, the key word for friend and miner being the same, namely 'Kumpel' (buddy in German) resonates still throughout the Ruhr region. Moreover everyone in area shared then the same fate, for will the miners return in the evening or not? So many accidents can happen down below. The blackened faces expressed themselves the hard work done under ground. Miners are a special kind. This had led to a strong community bondage but also to a special kind of culture on which even the Social Democratic Party of Germany based a lot of its staying power throughout difficult times. Most of all it meant saying something simple when about to go again under ground: "Glueckauf" - luck with you!

Whenever people converse in Bochum or in another city of the Ruhr region about their work experiences, then it is usual that references are made as to what took place down there, inside the shafts. Not only coal but many thoughts were brought out of these mines into broad daylight. That characterises the culture of this region.

To it belongs a definite knowledge about the kind of feelings existing especially when something happens under ground. They can become so strong and intense as experienced most recently throughout the world when miners in Chile were trapped for many days deep down. And what a sigh of relief everyone felt when all of them could be saved! Techniques of survival learned by astronauts in a space capsule provided some clues as to how they could exist underground. It meant going on a special diet and what exercises would facilitate the return of the trapped men to the surface of the earth. One thing was to prepare them for the sunlight. A sudden exposure when having spend so much time under ground would have blinded them. The drama of survival under such circumstances cannot be exaggerated. It is real and true to the bone.

That is why the culture of the miners after having endured so much as described so well by George Orwell has always something special about it. For it is conveyed by a sense of honesty and straight forwardness.

Now that the special year of 2010 when the entire Ruhr region was hosting the institution 'European Capital of Culture' has come and gone, a crucial question is if that culture was ever picked up by Ruhr 2010 and even more critical whether or not it was allowed to survive in the way the good old stories are told? This question is posed since that special year meant a modern media onslaught was brought upon the entire region by Ruhr 2010? The latter organisation, although never designed to stick around after 2011, conveyed through the media a specific interpretation of how use can be made of being European Capital of Culture. The core idea was to use culture as an agent of change. The aim was to bring about a transformation of the entire area. However, a media related communication process designed to alter the image of the entire Ruhr area is not the same as a culture reflecting itself as to what changes are happening and which changes are desirable.

Interestingly enough when Ruhr 2010 closed, its media expert came up with a new image. Its aim is to testify that a change did occur in 2010. It is claimed that Europe has now a new sight seeing spot besides the Eifeltower in Paris or the leaning tower in Pisa, namely the coal towers of the Ruhr area to be perceived at one and the same time as a symbol of times gone by and of a promising future ahead.


When Nicole Immerle and Hans wrote their article about European Capitals of Culture, they mention how Ruhr 2010 attempted to use a satellite image to suggest the region had become one. Frankly it is better to stay closer to the ground and see there what is happening. Ernst Käbisch on his excursion through the Ruhr area discovered one entry to the coal mine which had beside it a memorial of 2010. Clearly 'the rust of time' can be seen onhand of that photo.

Photo by Ernst Käbisch                              Zeche Ewald Fortsetzung in Oer-Erkenschwick 2014




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