European Capitals of Culture. The (im)perfect model for local development culture driven in inner and rural areas of Europe.
Imagine you have the chance to spend five to ten years working on placing culture at the center of almost all the programs for development of your town.
Imagine this process involves policy makers, operators from cultural and creative sector, the local community, all interested in contributing to a common vision.
Imagine a huge investment of public and private funding on this process able to impact on local cultural infrastructures, on capacity building processes both for the professionals of the sector and the audience that will benefit from cultural activities.
Imagine these five to ten years are only the starting point.
A dream? No, this is what a small, inner area, everywhere in Europe, can activate through the program of European Capital of Culture, initiated by European Commission in 1985, initially imagined for “famous” cultural cities (Athens, Paris, Florence), now, in the last ten years, valorizing the effort of towns like Matera (Italy), Rijeka (Croatia), Novi Sad (Serbia), Bad Ischl (Austria), all but big European cultural centers, in designing their future through the contribution of culture, cultural heritage, creative industries, cultural tourism.
The decision to apply for the ECoC call, which European Commission launches every year for two or three different countries in Europe, needs to be taken by the local policy makers but the more it grows as a bottom-up process, the more the operators of the cultural sector are recognized as the main actors of it, the more the community is involved and feels that culture can have positive impact on economy, employment, health, the higher the chances to win the title and be able to concretely make it happen. ECoCs are today the best labs for creative industries to be the engine of change, to imagine their future, to build new competences, to activate cross-fertilization processes with other sectors.
All in all the efforts and the risks are worth the try and the more ECoC will recognize their role in promoting and supporting local creative industries, the more the sector will grow faster and stronger.Paolo Montemurro
In such a scenario, tourism can be innovated by working with creative industries in designing new experiences where visitors become locals and feel the ownership of places they visit as in the CulTour Is Capital project , funded by the COSME program of the European Commission.
Similarly, new policies for the cultural and creative sector can be co-designed locally by bringing around the same table policy makers and stakeholders of the creative sector, as in the DEUS for CCI project , funded by Erasmus + program and born from Matera 2019 ODS project
So where is the trick? The path to the ECoC title is not easy as it is not easy to confirm what has been promised in the bid book as well as to maintain the results of the ECoC year and be able to activate the legacy process which should allow the cities to plan their following five to ten years and the harvesting of all the great fruits that have been planted during the preparation and implementation phase.
Therefore the ECoC model is an (im)perfect one as is the model of Europe constantly under construction with its processes based on mutual learning, knowledge exchange, quest for innovation and interest in measuring impacts generated by all its actions at all levels.Paolo Montemurro
It is not easy as actors and interests might change in the years, as the political will to invest in culture might get lost, as the local creative community needs to find a good balance between opening up with the rest of the world and not suffer from the rest of the world to come and work in its local dimension and, last but not least, as the people to coordinate the efforts of all the players involved need to be able to valorize the competences and qualities of all risking to disappoint some.
All in all the efforts and the risks are worth the try and the more ECoC will recognize their role in promoting and supporting local creative industries, the more the sector will grow faster and stronger.
Therefore the ECoC model is an (im)perfect one as is the model of Europe constantly under construction with its processes based on mutual learning, knowledge exchange, quest for innovation and interest in measuring impacts generated by all its actions at all levels.