Diāna Čivle: We are on Top of the Plan
Would you say that preparation for the year of European Capital of Culture is advancing as planned?
Yes, we are sharp on our plan and very active in what I call our creative kitchen. ...A number of very interesting things shave been added to the program to be explored, examined and selected for the personal programs of attending. 2014 will be rich in cultural activities. There are more than 100 projects, which mean even more events, since a project quite frequently includes a large range of events. In 2010, when Riga was confirmed as the European Capital of Culture 2014, we announced the tender for public projects and received 340 propositions, from which more than 100 were selected and which we know work on. Presently, we are in the final stages of preparation, and many of the projects are already under the contract with 'Riga 2014.'
Do you think the local government election, approaching in summer, could influence your work in any way?
This is a platform of very wide-ranging collaboration joining the City of Riga, practically all the ministries, the State Agency of Tourism, ‘LIVE Riga; the Latvian Institute, the non-governmental sector of cultural organizations and others, and we have all found the way of inter-acting and working together for this shared goal of ours so far. This is a good opportunity for us to put Latvia on the map in the world quite emphatically during this year dedicated to culture by purposeful joined efforts. We have learned a lot from the experience of Vilnius, for example, which entered the list of failures in this respect, for a range of reasons. We are maximally trying to form our partnerships minding all the possible risks. Our present situation confirms our collaborative skills in terms of this undertaking.
Every European Capital of Culture is a unique story, of course, since it is a mega-dimensional project with cultural program covering entire year and a sufficiently lengthy period of preparation prior to it. Also, it matters to be able to maintain the effect it would achieve. The conclusion of this year and what follows are very significant factors, for we have to avoid the bad after-effects experienced by other European Capitals of Culture where a large breakthrough has been achieved only to be followed by equally deep plunging back afterwards. Coordination and shared planning of all the institutions involved is needed. In my view, if we are able to reach it, we can be sure of positive result. It is one of the risks, which – I can say now – we have invested a lot of effort in to prevent by prioritizing healthy inter-action among institutions.
Speaking of the international presentation of Latvia, it is a collaboration between the embassies of Latvia around the world and the foreign embassies in Riga; it involves planning of the matters of tourism using the networks at disposal of the State Agency of Tourism and ‘LIVE Riga,’ as well as the matter of planning of cultural processes. We cannot talk only about the program or about implementing of it in this case; it has to be viewed in relation to the long-term plans of Riga City and the cultural policy of the state, since the events of this scale reflect on the cultural policy in general. One of the significant aspects – a focus, in which have already been noticed and appreciated – is the fiscal stability in respect of our plan of the European Capital of Culture program. Both, Riga City and the state in general have defined their resources for this event and kept their positions on it, in the last years. It is a positive influence for us, especially, as we are observed by international experts from the monitoring point of view and signal that we are reasonable in planning.
On how the money returns in varying ways
Have you any estimates on the density of the tourist flow to be expected in the year of the European Capital of Culture and do you observe the investments to pay back?
Our colleagues from other European Capitals of Culture have calculated the results that confirm that every invested euro returns as four. It is, naturally, a long term investment. Culture is the foremost to face the difficulty to demonstrate the direct return of the money invested in it to our wallets. They return in the long term and – as the benefit of the state in general – as taxes, through varying tourist industry activities. In conversations with our European colleagues, I have understood that it is difficult to find unified systems of demonstrating the profitability of the long term investments in cultural products. Every city in Europe calculates this economic increase by its own criteria.
Liverpool received 2.6 million first time visitors in 2008; Linz – 3.4 guests in 2009, Ruhr – 10.5 million tourists in 2010, Turku – around 2 million in 2011 and Tallinn – a little short of 2 million, accompanied by around 1000 publications in international media, reaching audience of hundreds of millions. The increase of tourism – the number of guests spending at least a night in these towns – for everybody was 23 % in the first nine months of the year.
What are the main advertising markets where Riga as European Capital of Culture is popularized?
We have partnerships with TAVA and ‘LIVE Riga’ and follow their routes of the long term planning. The most typical markets are Germany, Scandinavia, our neighboring countries – Russia, for example. These are markets targeted in our work as trades for tourism to Riga. At the same time, our events, many of which are international, also open our capital for a range of less usual markets. For example, one of the economically viable trends for Latvia is China. A concrete event, where we have successfully used cultural resource in order to enhance the development of tourism, is the World Quire Olympics, which will be held in Riga in 2014. Collaboration with the organizers of these Games allows us to use the consular mission of China in Riga to distribute variety of information about our capital. We are convinced that we will see quite a great number of Chinese quires in the World Quire Olympics here – having learned a lot more about Riga, the Chinese are intrigued and have special interest in us. Likewise, we keep contacts with a special Japanese foundation, established by the greatest industrialists of this country, and the Japanese have a particular program supporting European capitals. By means of such foundations and discussion of participation of certain Japanese artists in our projects and events, we increase interest of Japanese cultural tourists about Riga as a destination of their travel.
How many collectives have already applied to participate in the World Quire Olympics? And what will be the terms of participation for the quires from Latvia?
We are in process of announcing the registration. The registration will be completed only later this year when we will know the summary numbers. Latvia’s quires will enjoy beneficial terms of application; we demand it. Our quires will have variety of modes of participation in this contest, the official competition, which is rather restrictedly termed, is not the only one. We suggest for the quires to evaluate their capacities and interests – what each of the collectives wishes to gain from the participation. The possibilities are open to partake in the official event, but also – to call friendship concerts with quires from around the world, to establish friendships with particular collectives.
What the main venues of the World Quire Olympics will be?
The opening night and closing ceremony are planned for ‘Arēna Rīga’, and Mežaparks will host one of the mass concerts, where we strongly wish to demonstrate our quire singing traditions. We hope to gather the most multi-national quire in the world there.
Will you try to aspire for a new Guinness record?
I am not sure that we will be able to top in numbers the largest quire in the world, but we could surely look at gathering the largest international quire. Yes, there is such an ambition.
How far is the planning of Riga 2014 hosting the ceremony of European Film Academy awards at the moment?
We are convinced that Riga is the best choice for this event. In January, we had the representatives of their organizers visit Riga to assess the venues of the city from the technical organizational point of view. The change of the plans, following the decision to delay the reconstruction of the Congress Hall, obviously, had not lessened their interest in Riga.
On what has and what has not been built
How the chance of the new National Library not getting finished till early 2014 would reflect on your plans?
We continue to believe it will be finished by that time. Knowing the present situation, I still think this is the moment when the forces should be joined to push forward with maximum purpose in order to keep up with our shared plans. We are worried by the situation there, of course; quite many entries of our program should be changed in case if the Library could not host the previously planned events and exhibitions. ‘500 years of the book 1514-2014,’ for example, the program of stimulation of reading in the group of children, film lectures – a significant number of events, which have already entered the calendar of events. At the moment, we are stuck on our tracks, since the present situation does not allow us to decide on our planning priorities. There still seems to be enough time to re-plan, but we are waiting at the moment. We have to see the potential scenario for the construction of the objects of Library’s infrastructure. According to last notifications, the ministry does not perceive any obstacles for a positive outcome.
Are you preparing a plan B for an emergency perhaps?
Would we have any other alternatives? Of course, we will have to work on a plan B. But I think such a case-scenario would be very bad news for Latvia in general. Let us not forget that the procedures of European Capital of Culture are closely followed by international community. You asked before about the failed scenarios and risks experienced by our predecessors – quite often, it had been due to inability to overcome the obstacles arising or prevent the emerging risks. Presently, there are still all the instruments at our disposal to counter all these problematic situations, but one must act prospectively and energetically; then, the solutions can be found. In my view, the exit can be found from any deadlock, but the action is needed. At the moment, I have a sense that the readiness to invest efforts and energy of the ministry, which seems to be dedicated to this matter, could be a promising start.
In the meantime, two large cultural objects – the National Museum of Art and the Museum of Occupation will be encircled by protective fences in 2014 for reconstruction.
Yes, those are facts. We take them into account and realize this situation. Of course, we would be happier to be able to have this cultural fete and see the fencing and scaffolding removed by then. Now, we could have to celebrate their presence, but even that is a cause for certain optimism – the life goes on, and, if the year of European Capital of Culture will convince as many of us as possible that the cultural matters are very high on our agenda, we will have made a large step ahead in this respect already. We who work in the sphere of culture know that one of the approaches is – culture is in the beginning of everything. Another one says that culture is where everything ends, especially when we line up those who request the money, as it seems that everything else is more important and the culture can wait. These are two diverging views. As I see it, today we observe positive trends towards a change in the approach which diminished culture. As only a wider perspective and active approach to cultural matters and perception of their significance, their prioritization can allow us to hope for more positive outcomes of many of our undertakings. This is my conviction.
On partner cities in Latvia and Europe
How will collaboration with another European Capital of Culture Umea develop? Shall we compete or be partners with a common cause?
We will be true collaborators and partners. Although the pairs of cities annually selected by European Commission as European Capitals of Culture are frequently called forced married couples, we have been in close contact with Umea from very beginning and make plans regarding the structure of our respective cultural programs as well as shared events. For example, we have designated the opening of the year of European Capital of Culture on January 17-18, 2014, while Umea will take it over two weeks later. We will share a range of activities with Umea bearing in mind that our towns can either benefit or suffer from the choices made by the other. Naturally, we choose to be beneficial.
One of the partnership projects with Umea concerns the issue of Livs and Sami. We have our Liv minority, they have Sami, and it is shared platform. Therefore, a successful collaboration has developed between their ‘Västerbottens’ Museum and our Open-Air Museum. Another initiative, within terms of which events have already been organized not only in Riga, but in our partner town Sigulda as well, is the artist exchange project of contemporary art ‘Survival Kit.’ In my view, it is not only a very good international collaboration, but also a platform of artistic mobility, since, being dependent on inspiring impressions, they need to see more of the world. There are altogether ten collaboration projects marked for Riga – Umea link.
Apart from Sigulda, have you planned for any other Riga – European Capital of Culture events in the cities around Latvia?
Certainly, our work on this project began already a good while ago, when we initiated the Latvian towns to think in what way they could contribute events to the year of European Capital of Culture. Many of the offers are traditional events, well approbated by these towns, while there are also those, which can serve as extensions of Riga’s cultural program. For example, we collaborate with the emerging Mark Rothko Art Center in Daugavpils in preparation of the conference, which will begin in Riga and continue in Daugavpils. We have offered and received ideas, from very beginning, to inter-act also with other candidate towns – Cēsis and Liepāja, and there are projects under way to be confirmed for this line of collaboration. Cultural tourists coming to Riga in summer would receive a chance also to leave Riga for special tours to other vicinities. The approaches are varied, and we expect them to add a special touristic sub-program to the cultural panorama of the European Capital of Culture. Riga is only the gate, through which our guests arrive, while our homestead is large as entire Latvia.
On importance of the year of European Capital of Culture for ourselves
Is it already clear what the total budget of European Capital of Culture will be?
We have been working within concrete limits of budget from very beginning, which, naturally, has a margin of yet undesignated spending. The planned total budget of 2012-2014 is 17 million lats – means pooled together from different resources; from Riga City, the state funding, we plan 10% or 1.7 million lats to come from our partnerships with entrepreneurs, who would be ready to invest. The indicated total includes also European financing, which has been requested. We are generating a number of European foundation projects, several of which have been successfully supported. Each of the European Capitals of Culture has also received 1.5 million euro of Europe’s support.
Are events for popular taste planned for the European Capital of Culture program or is it designated for refined aficionados alone?
Rigaas European Capital of Culture underlined in its application for this status that we will perceive culture in the widest possible sense – from the cultural activities realized in all 58 neighborhoods of Riga to events of high art. The spectrum is very wide, and, from the artistic point of view, we have lots to be proud of – from world class musicians, to internationally recognized directors such as Alvis Hermanis is, to a range of achievements in contemporary art, which is the genre were we hope yet to demonstrate the talent of Latvian artists on international arena. But every smaller event is equally important for us, be it any of creative quarters or activities in Riga’s districts. If these entries will be well balanced in the program of the year’s events and every one of us living in Riga will be able to find something to match our taste, our objective will be achieved. We organize this entire event first and foremost for ourselves, and humans typically feel good when they have managed to do something and been able to be part of something, which is why we invite everyone in Latvia to partake in creation of this program. We have initiated that with Creative space on Esplanade and a very active movement of volunteers, which enables everyone to take part in preparation of the year of European Capital of Culture.
Part of the interview to the news agency BNS