Race on for Europe’s German cultural capital 2010
TWIG - The ten German cities short-listed to become one of the two European cultural capitals for 2010 this week presented their complete applications to government officials in a race that is about more than just local pride. Cities across Germany are vying for the prestigious title, not to mention the millions of euros in support that will help refurbish local infrastructure, restore museums, create cultural programming, and launch advertising campaigns.
After a first cut weeded out six prospective cultural capitals, ten cities are still in the running: Karlsruhe, Regensburg, Potsdam, Bremen, Kassel, Braunschweig, Essen, Goertlitz, Halle/Saale, and Luebeck. The final decision will be made by a commission of experts from the European Union in 2006 after the Foreign Office nominates a single German candidate in consultation with the Bundesrat upper house of parliament.
Introduced by Greek Cultural Minister Melina Mercouri in 1985, the cultural capital program was conceived as a way to bring Europe’s people together and is coordinated by the European Ministry for Culture. Apart from the stature afforded by the honor, the title European cultural capital brings badly needed tourist dollars to cash-strapped cities. People around Europe were shocked to discover recently what being European cultural capital meant for the modest Austrian city of Graz, which recorded a 35% growth in tourism when it held the title in 2003. In essence, being cultural capital is an invitation to visitors who might otherwise have stayed away.
The last time that Germany was host to a European cultural capital was in 1999, when Weimar, widely seen as the country’s historical intellectual capital because of its ties to German classicism, was an obvious choice. Located in the eastern state of Thuringia, organizers used the opportunity to restore cultural dignity to what many Germans see as the home of their most distinguished cultural forefathers - Goethe and Schiller. Choosing Weimar also sent a signal of the entire country’s commitment to restoring the cultural heritage of the former East German states, many of whose most significant cultural sites were badly damaged or left dilapidated during communism’s reign.
For 2010, it seems, there might be a greater chance that a western German city will be chosen. The northern city-state Bremen has launched its efforts in two books that offer a comprehensive summary of Bremen’s claim to cultural significance that goes far beyond the whimsy of the city’s traditional Brementown musicians.
The Hessian city of Kassel, on the other hand, started early with its optimistic campaign "Kassel wins." Potsdam, just east of the capital city of Berlin, is appealing to the broader European agenda through its slogan, "Europe moves Potsdam."
Regensburg, which beat out other Bavarian favourites Augsburg and Bamberg, has chosen another tactic by focusing on its cultural partnership with the Hungarian capital Budapest, as well as its close proximity to the 10 new EU member states. Hungary will choose the second European cultural capital for 2010.
But a little bit of healthy competition and local pride
can’t hurt any of these cities in the run-up to the actual naming of
cultural capital 2010, which is set to take place in 2006. Journalists and
local leaders alike are already flouting what is perhaps the greatest boon
of the cultural capital phenomenon of all - the chance for the citizens of
each competing city to rediscover what makes their hometown come alive.
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