European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The Legacy: Innovation, Reproduction or Exhaustion?

In a short description, the paper outlines what impact Stavanger2008 had upon the development of the cultural field of a region, but it does not come to the critical conclusion that the programme had many deficits and at the same time risked to overdo it especially in terms of music, theatre and installations of all types. Indeed, if there is too much repetition, but also too much emphasis on being 'Norwegian' as if such a pre-selection works in the fields of the arts, then overdoing it in an one sided sense makes it plausible that the outcome was not as convincing as originally hoped for. If 'exhaustion' is not the proper word, then being over demanded by having to host over an entire year a demanding cultural programme, then it is likely that all resources have been spend after the year is over.

The paper's concept starts of with a simple reflection:

"The emphasis on culture as an important economic factor in regional development is increasing. Large scale cultural events are often seen as a catalyst for the development of the cultural economy in a city or region. The literature on the impact of mega events generally and of European Capital of Culture (ECC) specifically has expanded lately. The dominant themes have been the economical benefits (or the overestimation of economical benefits) of the event; the event’s impact on the cultural identity of the residence in the city or region; the event’s impact on a city’s competitive advantage in relation to the attention of important stakeholders; and the event’s impact on regional development and urban regeneration."

Yet in this reflection nothing is said about such an impact assessment missing completely the point as it does not deal with the internal workings of culture or how artistic work goes numerous phases before something can be performed. But that is not all. It is simply not enough to have a series of events without any linkage between them. If energy is spend without creating synergies, then sooner or later the implementation process becomes tedious and runs out of steam. It can be noticed that towards the end of the programme, it thins out. That may be due to not having available the full programme, but only the one drafted in Sept. 2007. But missing in this programme is any real sense for the European dimension and for the participation of the local population in a way that can partake in this or that event, but not everything for that would amount to being exhausted well before the end of the year. Also difficult is to assess from such a perspective whether or not something else was brought about or if the already existing or known cultural features of the city, region and Norway was merely brought out more forcefully and given this special stage? That question has to be reformulated into what was the 'cutting edge' for selecting the projects listed in the programme?

Aside from the four theatre projects in residency according to the four seasons, what else gave a real structure to the programme, and this with a focus on European culture? If South Africa, Israel or America participates, then it would be at the very least important to reflect Europe's and not only Norway's relationship to the arts in those countries. So the short-coming of this general research scope reflects only the usual trend to link culture to the economy, and if not needed so much as in the case of Stavanger with only 1% unemployment and one of the highest standards of living in Europe, then culture was deliberately used to attract simply more tourists, but without having a clear concept on how to involve them so that they would return to Stavanger after the year was over. 

Description of the paper

"In this paper it is the latter theme that is highlighted, that is the event’s impact on regional development, or, more specific, the development of the cultural field of a region. In 2008 Stavanger was European Capital of Culture. This paper presents an analysis of the impact of this year for the cultural sector in the Stavanger region. Culture impacts can both be seen as a desired effect in its own term, and as a part of a policy preparing the Stavanger region for the future, making it less dependent on the petroleum industry and more based on the cultural economy (from Norway’s ‘oil capital’ to a ‘capital of culture’). The paper is based on a study on how the cultural producers and artists in the region of Stavanger evaluate the impact of Stavanger 2008. Organisations in question range from private enterprises to public financed organisations, and they vary both in size and historical record. Major cultural events like Stavanger 2008 are expected to have great impact on the cultural life of the Stavanger region. The impact can be identified at different phases: When the cultural producers planned and prepared for a project, the actual year when Stavanger was European Cultural Capital, and in the following years, when the after-effect is revealed. In this paper, the authors focus on the latter, the after-effect. Thus the question is if, the degree to which, and how mega events like Stavanger2008 changes and refurnishes the field of cultural production."


The research question in the paper is: What is the after-effect of Stavanger2008 for the cultural sector in the Stavanger region? 


It was an important goal of the Stavanger ECC, and part of the regional policy of supplementing the region’s current economic basis (the petroleum industry), to strengthen the region’s cultural sector. What, then, does our analysis tell us about the impact of Stavanger 2008 in this respect?

On a whole, the cultural sector’s evaluations of the effects of the ECC in Stavanger are varied and often quite ambivalent. In the introduction, the authors presented four scenarios for Stavanger 2008’s after-effect for the cultural sector. Briefly, these are:

  1. lift of the region’s cultural life;

  2. exhaustion of the region’s cultural life;

  3. ‘business as usual’;

  4. a refurnished cultural life in the region

  5. a more innovative basis for culturalproduction.

The analysis tells us that in fact all of these scenarios are, to varying degrees, outcomes of Stavanger 2008. However, it seems plausible that the scenarios have played (and continue to play) themselves out differently in different parts of the cultural sectors. 

Contact info

International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS)
Nils Asle Bergsgard tel. (+47) 51 87 50 00

Publication date



Nils Asle Bergsgard & Anders Vassenden


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