Capitals of Culture Met in Sunny Umeå
Last Friday and Saturday representatives from previous, present and future European capitals of culture (ECoC) met in Umeå. ECoC meetings are held twice annually by the coming culture year cities. In November last year, the meeting was held in Riga and this time Umeå took its turn. The purpose of the meetings is to connect the culture capitals with one another in order to discuss current issues – and of course to get to know the hosting city.
The sunshine across the snow-covered, icy river was a beautiful backdrop for the open session at Bildmuseet, and tempted the guests from Kosice and Liverpool to start the morning with some jogging by the riverside.
– But I should have worn a hat during the running, said Peter Germuska från Kosice.
Not only culture projects
Peter works with the evaluations of Kosice’s capital of culture year and at the open session, he presented participants with a glimpse of their program. Their White Night Festival in early October in connection to the oldest marathon run in Europe were mentioned among their many events and activities. Writer Sàndor Márai, who is as important for Kosice as Kafka is for Prague, will also be featured in the program.
– The important message to get through, is that the capital of the culture year is not only just one culture project, but rather a contributor to a long term change and development of the city, declared Jan Sudzina, Director of the Kosice capital of culture year.
Jan had the opportunity not only to watch, but participate in the dance performance byJorggáhallan at Norrlandsoperan, one of many activities available to visitors of the Sami Week. An exciting highlight, where the audience was unexpectedly welcomed to co-create with the dancers.
– I really enjoyed the way the performance united old traditions with a modern approach, said Jan.
Companion capital of culture for 2013, Marseille was represented by director Ulrich Fuchs, who previously led the city of Linz as European capital of culture.
Marseille started their year with a grand opening ceremony and has an impressive program year to look forward to. During the month of March, a baroque festival will be featured. Marseille’s ambition is to encourage citizens to participate in as many of the dance, literature, and art exhibitions as possible. Station Sanitaire down at the harbour, which once greeted immigrants from other countries, has now been rebuilt into a museum developing a completely new cultural hot spot in the city.
Just like Umeå, Riga is the capital of culture in 2014. They will inaugurate their new national library during the year by forming a human chain from the old library to the new, thereby symbolically passing along books to the new library. This serves also as a reminder of the events that took place in 1989, making Latvia an independant country. Latvia has a great choral tradition and will host the World Choir Festival in July 2014, involving 20.000 participants from 90 different countries. Another highlight mentioned from the Riga program will be Richard Wagner’s opera ”Rienzi der letze Tribunen”. Wagner lived a couple of years in Riga and composed parts of the opera during that time.
Interplay with Umeå
Like Umeå, Riga aims to achieve a great deal through co-creation with its citizens, ”even if we do it in our own way, Riga-style,” as the Director of Programs Aiva Rozenberga put it during her presentation. Some exciting collaborations with Umeå are being planned, and a prime example is the Survival Kit project, which focuses on issues surrounding urban survival and sustainability, locally and globally. During the economic crisis in 2009, Riga’s artists and culture groups were forced to ask themselves whether to move abroad, or to stay and make something positive out of the situation. As a reaction to this, Survival Kit found its beginnings. Empty buildings in the centre of Riga were filled with artists at work stimulating new growth. Umeå’s own local artist collective Verkligheten, was inspired by this movement, moving them to initiate a collaboration with different actors in Riga during 2010. Their project includes a workshop in Umeå and Tärnaby for artists from Latvia and Sweden, as well as an international art festival in Umeå during September and October 2014. The festival will feature the work of 30 international and local artists, seminars, film screenings and more. A collaboration between the light festivals in Umeå and Riga are being planned. Riga is known to hold one of the largest in Europe, and a goal is to feature some of their installations in Umeå. Another interesting event is a Sune Jonsson (who was a famous Swedish photographer) exhibition to be held in Riga.
An unexpected event
Friday’s schedule focused mainly on the program presentation from the current and 2014 culture capital cities, while Saturday’s discussions tackled issues such as long term sustainability, financing and the engagement of young people. Sävargården at Gammlia provided an idyllic backdrop for the ECoC meetings and the sun did its part to brighten a brief lunch break at the Sami market near Västerbotten’s Museum. Followed of course with close encounters in the snow. After all, what is a visit to Umeå in March – the Season of Awakening, Gijrradálvvie – without exploring the glory of the season! Saturday ended with fun-filled adventures on the slopes of Bräntberget.
Representatives from 17 capitals of culture present in Umeå: Liverpool2008, Stavanger2008, Linz2009, Ruhr2010, Turku2011, Tallinn2011, Maribor2012, Guimaraes2012, Kosice2013, Marseille2013, Riga2014, Umeå2014, Mons2015, San Sebastian2016, Wroclaw2016, Århus2017, Valetta2018.