European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Looking back in 2015 Yvonne Felman Cunha Rego


            Ivonne Rego making her presentation in Athens June 22, 2015


The celebrations in Lisbon which was Capital of Culture in 1994 were wonderful.

Lisbon reinvented itself –

It was a celebration of renewal, where everybody was invited and to which everybody responded.

The urban environment was regenerated, new exhibition spaces were welcomed, forgotten treasures rediscovered and the city's artistic and cultural heritage opened itself up to people of all ages, conquered everyone and stimulated new audiences.

Projects were brought into being which lived on for much longer than originally anticipated. .

It was a period when experiences and common interests were shared, when we all had the same motivation and worked together to fulfill the same dream.

We spoke the same language, albeit in many tongues.

We made new friends, unexpected partnerships and memories which would last forever.

It was the exact translation of the spirit and atmosphere that the Network of Cultural Capitals has always brought to each city, which has sprung from the diligence and professionalism of a team where each member learnt from each other, as well as from the experiences of those who had worked on these initiatives in earlier years. These experiences enriched the work and contributed to the success of those which followed.

I believe it was this attitude that we looked for in each project - the construction of a network of people who shared the same view of what the Capital of Culture could and should achieve.

And it was this which each new team in each new Capital found when they joined the 'family'.  Because of this attitude all of the cities gained from this period of achievement and renewal.

However in Liverpool the links of this chain of enthusiasm were broken, Groups grew up which seemed to be in conflict and the strong spirit of cooperation appeared to be lost. There was a distance between us which could not be overcome. It became difficult to know what was happening, who was doing what and where, and what projects were being carried out. It was as though it was all taking place for the first time, with none of the advantages of all the knowledge which had been acquired over the years.  And, the Cultural Capitals which had polarized the attention of the world on our countries, lost their impetus and became diluted.

In these worrying times, Culture - with a capital C - is a harbor of peace, of better understanding of the world, of our history and our peoples. Culture - with a capital C -demonstrates, and explains, what we have in common and what is different between us, enabling us to develop points of contact...

We can see that there is a growing interest worldwide in cultural themes.  Cultural tourism is increasing in many countries, in particular in Europe, while new problems of insecurity are rising in too many parts of the continent.

This reunion and the immediate response we are giving, is proof of our interest and willingness to take part in such an initiative.

You can count on me.

In my heart I keep the dream and the example that our beloved Athens, the first ever Cultural Capital, so generously provided us with.


Yvonne Felman Cunha Rego

Lisbon 94/2015


Note: this presentation was made at the Athens meeting June 22/23 2015 to observe 30 years of ECoC history. See Memory protocol of the Athens meeting 2015- Hatto Fischer

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