European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Assessment and legacy

To make an assessment of a city from a distance, especially if one has not been there like Oleg Koefoed during this one year when the city carries the title 'European Capital of Culture', and on top of it all shares this with still another city, in this case Maribor, then it is not at all easy to do any justice. Every city strives for something special and experiences novelties once culture is given a higher priority than otherwise the case. That can and does create new junctures. After all it does set energies free but just as was disappointed the man who had opened a cafe on the main street of Pecs when that city was ECoC in 2010, it does say something when internationally renowed personalities converge upon a city but fail to interact with the locals. Exchange of experience especially in a crisis period would be crucial to alter perspectives and to give some outlets to all these stored up expectations and energies. There are many people with good intentions out there. They are willing to engage themselves and do not expect so much help from officials but rather they want opportunities, indeed do something with their lives. If anything, this revolt runs through the veins of many but it can also be absorbed by the usual tricks of the trade which includes McDonalds as much as night bars. 'Enjoyment of life' has been commercialized in the meantime everywhere, one needs only to think of the transformation the old historical Jewish quarter of Krakow has undergone, to comprehend what it means to be all of a sudden home for a jet set which prefers flats on the fourth floor and easy access to where the fun is. That means just as Barcelona became famous for its Jazz bars and therefore attracted a special group of people, every city has this night life in contrast to the daily life and very often these two spheres hardly ever meet either at sunset or sun rise.

For any assessment it is possible to follow the scheme Bob Palmer proposes and who has come together with Greg Richards to the conclusion that hardly any city succeeds in securing any legacy for the long run. Besides that, there are the original criteria which a city had to fulfil when doing the application and thus it is a matter of interest to see if they really did fulfil them e.g. European dimension, citizens behind the bid and thus fully participating etc.

In the case of Guimaraes 2012 there is also one important criterion, that of communication. During the entire year one heard hardly anything, and this means the city was either not such a high point of attraction as is by comparison Marseilles 2013, and not only because of difference in size, but also due to being at a nodal point of communication, namely Europe and the Mediterranean region with regards to the Arab and North African continent. There are ways of noticing if something interesting was happening. It would be not the talk of the town only, but of Europe.

Given the crisis that Portugal finds itself in, naturally the crisis can be ignored completely by pretending things can continue or it does become a prime task of all cultural actors to make sure that during austerity budgets for culture are not cut still more right across the board. Somehow there has been lost on many cities but it is due to the European Commission subscribing the concept much more to a city which shows itself as to what it has in terms of cultural heritage, infrastructures and resources, rather than stepping into the debate linked to the general European agenda on culture. And if there are anyhow two Capitals of Culture, then this sense of being Capital with political responsibilities for culture evaporates into thin air very much like the fireworks once extinguished leaves everything to a dark night.

Hatto Fischer


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