Silver Anniversary of Capitals of Culture
It doesn’t seem that it has been 25 years since the Greek actress, Melina Mercouri, and the French culture minister of the time, Jack Lang jointly conceived of the idea of having, each year, a European Capital of Culture. Starting tomorrow, the European Union will be celebrating the idea with a conference in Brussels to consider the achievements and what might be done in the future.
This year there are three capitals of culture per year, Essen in Germany, Istanbul in Turkey and Pecs in Hungary. The idea has been copied in the Middle East, where Alexandria in Egypt is this year’s beneficiary, and the Americas where this year Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic is the winner. As British Tourism Week has ended what next to celebrate tourism? Margaret Hodge, our minister for culture, has announced that we will have our own British capital of culture from 2013.
The idea behind having a capital of culture is firstly to celebrate the achievements of that destination. The second is to publicise it and encourage us to visit it. Does it work?
The answer seems to be a resounding yes. We have had only two winners of the European award, Glasgow and Liverpool. Liverpool claims that over £800 million was generated by us visiting the area. Understandably, there does seem to be a drop in visitors the following year but it looks to be short-lived.
The shortlisted cities for 2013 are Birmingham, Derry, Norwich and Sheffield and the winner will be named during the summer. It will be decided by a panel led by Phil Redmond, (who was behind the Liverpool bid). But there is no opportunity for us ordinary mortals to have our say. Otherwise why would Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh, and Cardiff not be included? And what of smaller places? The contributions of Hay-on-Wye, Aldeburgh and Chichester come to mind. And why only culture? Why not expand it to include a tourism place of the year rated on what visitors think according to facilities, service, friendliness, range of things to occupy the visitor and access?