European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The designation - role of Jury


Outcome of the decision to give the designation to Aarhus - what does it signal?

The decision to give the designation to Aarhus, not Sonderborg has many reasons, so it would be worthwhile to study at the very least the final report of the Jury.

- Aarhus has a definite international orientation and therefore picks up this general trend of seeking for cities and their surrounding regions a new kind of diplomacy by which international contacts can be facilitated

- there is a need to attract highly skilled labour which shall only come to a city if there are offered besides well paid jobs good schools for the children and there is being made a cultural offer which satisfies the needs to these international experts.

- the role Trevor Davis played until he disappeared from the scene after Aarhus had received the designation.


When Trevor Davis became active on behalf of Aarhus, he had already the experience of doing this kind of artistic and cultural coordination, insofar as he was the artistic director when Copenhagen was European Capital of Culture in 1996. This means also that Trevor Davis had excellent contacts throughout Europe and was linked at the same time due to his own background to highly artistic and innovtive projects e.g. he started with street theatre in Copenhagen.


- some further reasons:

Aarhus seems to underline a return to the original concept insofar a city and not a region has been selected. Sonderborg tried very much to include its broader region by extending it even across the border to include Flensburg.

The city of Aarhus is known to have already a lively artistic scene with many things going on. Also their concept is definitely geared towards use of culture to attract highly qualified people to the city for employment purpose in high leveled tasks. It is difficult to attract such highly qualified people if two things are not given besides good housing, namely good schools for the children and a cultural offer of diverse activities. Culture as location factor for highly qualified experts is decisively the deeper purpose behind the concept Aarhus offers as European Capital of Culture. It means it shall make use of this designation to advance the city in a highly competitive field. The question is what else shall Aarhus do to advance the dialogue between cultures and the promotion of cultural diversity within Europe.


Given the saying by Eric Antonis, the artistic director when Antwerp was ECoC in 1993, that culture is one of the most difficult things to evaluate, it is to be expected that Trevor Davis with his vast network shall introduce certain notions into the European discussion about cultural policy of the future. He may want to modify the notion of cultural and creative industries even though this sector is a part of the build-up in Aarhus. It is also known that a great effort was done to extend the concept of the city by seeking to include in the distribution network of culture the outer districts, neighboring villages and hence include both the rural and regional aspect. This was naturally an outcome of the competition with Sonderborg.

What it will contribute to Denmark and Europe in times, remains to be seen. There is this contradiction between use of culture to attract from abroad highly qualified people while at the same time migration has become a political issue due to discrimination and exclusion in Denmark, but not only. There are still other issues in need to be resolved, if to be successful as a European Capital of Culture in the year 2017, European unification being by that time a matter of having common governance or not. The latter will have to be a measured and thought through response to the new economic challenges lying ahead. Aarhus as business centre and active harbor can bring about a better stimulus to discuss better these matters than was perhaps Liverpool 2008 or even Genoa 2005, two other ports cities but in need to refurbish their negative or bad images. Aarhus starts from a much more positive base and has therefore more to give in the long term once put onto the European map by being the European Capital of Culture in 2017.

One word of caution needs to be added. When Trevor Davis did Copenhagen in 1996, the city made available one of the largest budgets in the history of ECoC cities and still it ended in deficit. And as far as the legacy is concerned, it is said the only thing one remembers from that year is the bridge which was build to connect Denmark with Sweden. That is like Pecs 2010 which accomplished finally the construction of a connecting highway Pecs - Budapest.

Hatto Fischer


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