Summary of the Workshop 25 Years of European Capitals of Culture

Technopolis 18th of September  2010 – Moderator Rodolfo Maslias

The workshop started with a power point presentation prepared by the moderator
to give an overview of the importance of this project and some examples to
stress its evolution and the different approach by each city.

introduction to the workshop was made by Spyros Merkouris, Director of Athens
’85, the first ECOC. He spoke on the origin of idea by Melina Merkouri that was
to give to the European unification a cultural aspect beside of the economic and
social ones.  He stressed the need to preserve the values that have
constituted the milestones of the project against the increasing pressure to
convert the ECOCs in a commercial and marketing event. After describing the aims
and the program of Athens ’85 that brought to Athens important events from all
over Europe in all fields of art and culture, he stressed the importance of
networking among the ECOCs to ensure the know-how transfer. Spyros Merkouris
spoke about the history of the Network of ECCM, its achievements and the
difficulties that led to its abolition last year, leaving a gap that has to be
filled by the Documentation Center of the City of Athens created this year and
providing a networking facility, but also by the ECP that could play an active
role and by the Services of the European Commission.

Steve Austen,
Director of Amsterdam ’87 spoke on the evolution of the project since the first
years and on the different structure of each organization that explains the
difficulties of creating a formal network of ECOCs. He stated that there has
been always an informal cooperation between especially the first Capitals of
Culture and that the pioneers of the project are always available to offer their
expertise to the new candidates and ECOCs.

The moderator made a
conclusion of these two interventions suggesting that ECP undertakes an
initiative by making concrete proposals to the decision makers for the
improvement of the procedures and the overall project on the basis of the
results of the workshop with as first step the request that the European
Commission assumes at the forthcoming revision of the procedure the task to
create and finance a permanent system of networking and know-how transfer that
will also affect the evaluation criteria. The ECP could submit this proposal
using the exact wording of the amendment that the Member of its Senate Erna
Hennicot-Schoepges had tabled at the European Parliament a few years

The next topic of the workshop was the difficulties encountered by
each city in organizing the cultural year due to the political interventions in
setting the objectives and in the practical and cultural aspects. The discussion
was based on the example of the last Greek Capital of Culture, Patras 2006,
highlighted from two different aspects, the one of the management by the
managing director, Christos Roilos, and the one of the artistic program by the
Artistic Director, Alexis Alatsis, and Member of the ECP. Both agreed that the
biggest source of problems is the conflict of interests. Several public
entities, City, Region, local organizations participate to the project and each
one has its own goals.  They also both agreed that Patras was probably not
a right choice to be a Capital of Culture (it was appointed by the State without
internal competition just as the third biggest city after Athens and
Thessaloniki, which had already beard the title).

Christos Roilos
enumerated the main goals set by the Board, described the grade of success and
explained the reasons some of them have partly or not achieved at all. Most of
them were linked to political conflicts among the two big parties governing the
different entities participating to the Board. He also described the failure of
the sustainability attempt and described in detail the situation of the
infrastructures, none of which is used today for cultural purposes.
Alatsis who assumed the role of the resigned Artistic Director ex Minister of
Culture Thanos Mikroutsikos one week after the start of the cultural year,
enumerated a series of problems for designing the program of an ECOC, like the
usually exaggerated expectancies created by the politicians, the question of
right orienting the communication according to its addressees, the pressures for
implication of a large range of local cultural actors, the very usual
competition of the ECOC towards the capital of the country, the lack of interest
of the media for what is happening outside the capital (Greece is an extreme
case in this aspect).

The same political problems occurred in one of this
year’s ECOCs, Pecs, as Karoly Méhes described taking the floor after the two
speakers for Patras.

All participants from former of candidate ECOCs
intervened (Graz 2003, Stavanger 2008, Burgos 2016, Turku, 2011, Warsaw 2015,
Maastricht 2018 a.o.) Several questions and proposals have been discussed, a
list of which will be compiled upon their submission in written to the

Finally Lyudmila Nurse (Oxford XXI) and Tuuli
Lähdesmäki  (University of Jyväskylä) presented their studies on the ECOCs
from a scientific point of view and spoke about the important elements that this
project offers to the scientif research in the field of culture. In this
context, also the role of the Network of Universities dealing with ECOCs was
stressed by the moderator.

The two researchers distributed a
questionnaire to all the participants to the workshop and also to the other
members of ECP not able to attend it. The results will be elaborated and
presented together with the list of the concrete proposals in the next days. The
survey will be also available on-line in the ECP website.

The present
summary, drafted by the moderator will be completed on the basis of the
recording of the session and quoted  participants are invited to ask for
corrections or ads. 

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