European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Success and failure of the ECoC project- a resume of the Palmer reports

When Bob Palmer held his speech at the ECoC 25 year celebration, he mentioned seven crucial points which reflect his growing concern about recent developments in those cities which had been European Capitals of Culture:

1. While everyone speaks about 'creativity of city', it is not at all clear how this is to be organized and once a creative process has been started, how to continue it after the one year is over?

2. Governance of a city in cultural terms is not that easy nor self-understood. It requires something crucial, equal intangible, namely trust of people, while in relation to the program developed for the one year there is a need for much more clarification of the impact claimed or meant to have been achieved.

3. As anyone can imagine implementation is made most difficult because there is a need to deal with so many different 'egos', so how to deal with that?

4. Very often cities underestimate the required operational and organisational capacity needed to be in place well ahead of the special year. Usually only a very limited capacity is made available in real terms, while cities remain silent about the real gaps. This is because many cities are too protective about its own myth and reputation as the one capable of dealing with everything. Instead they should engage themselves with a willingness to learn in all preparatory measures and heed practical advice from the cities who have gone through this experience already.

5. When it comes to use of resources, there is a dangerous trend to increase levels of spending especially in larger cities to make possible all sorts of things during that one year but how to sustain that cultural capital when the year is over? Certainly the special circumstance when huge amounts of money are spent, it is certain that it will not last. Much more should be done to avoid right from the start 'inflationary spending'.

6. The European Commission should be careful about fostering a growing European Cultural Capital Industry for it will benefit the marketing and advertising industry, but not in substance the arts and artists and therefore also not conduicive of a cultural development Europe would be much more in need of.

7. A much more rigorous evaluation should be done of the Cultural Capital programs, that is what each city presents when making the bid and also in follow-up to that selection process, once having received the designation what shall be finally implemented. Critical are the following points when it comes to evaluate these programs:



'Creative city', or what brings about a creative process, has become more than just a buzz word since Florida's theories have been embraced by mayors and made into a major orientation on how to link cultural policy to real estate speculation. It means catering to the special interest of the 'creative class' ready to invest and to pay for expensive lofts, while gearing the city's infrastructure towards the needs of an economy expanding in the direction of the creative and cultural industry. To this has been added the EU 2020 vision of an 'economy of experience' adding extra value to whatever cultural and other resources a city has to offer. The derivative of that is not merely entertainment or passages with shops selling luxury items, but something much more encompassing with perhaps Dubai setting the pace. Charles Johnston would call the latter an example of 'transmodernity' linking architecture, culture and social functions to how a global business works in the 21st century. A copy of that can be seen on major global newscasters who try to convince that they are able to stay on top of the game by not using the latest technology when producing 'breaking news', but conveying models of success which no longer distinguish between advertisement and praise of the successful. 'Being creative' becomes then someone using a mobile phone gadget to transform the digital photo taken of the birthday child by introducing all sorts of extras: a funny hat, two girls kissing the boy apparently on the the respective left and right cheek etc. It is, therefore, not a surprise that the German Architectural Chamber when contemplating the future European Capital of Culture has Leipzig in mind and recommends immediately that city to join the 'Creative City' network.

Needless to say that is not what creative minds do and think, nor what can make a city become truly creative insofar its citizens learn to be innovative not only at work, but in their human and social relationships. That would mean in a period of economic recession and austerity not to fall primarily victim to depression, or rage (which can be at times the same), while becoming without realizing it ever more destructive. For if things are out of control and merely masked, then the risk is to leave others behind. For thwat would mean there is a surge not for the exit as the case when again fire spreads at a night club and therefore people risk their lives by going to a place which becomes a death trap due to untrained security guards and mistrust of customers as if they do not wish to pay, but for a high paid job by proving to be highly creative i.e. capable of masking the manipulative tricks when using the latest arts to bring across a simple message weighing carefully shock with reassurance everything shall be alright in the end.

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