European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The Legacy: Innovation, Reproduction or Exhaustion?


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.


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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