A tour through Europe: Graz 2003


Graz, a city in South-East Austria with a population of around 300 000, was the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) in 2003. Graz has been a cultural town for hundreds of years, one contributing factor for this being the fact that it was on two occasions the political center of Inner Austria during the Habsburg reign. Notable cultural institutions of Graz include the town theater, the opera house and the largest regional museum in Austria. In addition, the city hosts numerous small theaters, contemporary art galleries and independent art production centers. Particularly renowned as a center for avant-garde culture for several decades is the Forum Stadtpark, which is an arts production and exhibition center created by artists in the 1960s. Worth mentioning is also the Steirischer Herbst, which is a cross-sector international avant-garde festival that has attracted visitors from around the world for over 30 years. Graz also enjoys a reputation as a student city, as it hosts the Karl-Franzens-University, founded in 1585, the technical university, the arts university and the pedagogic Institute, which together host around 37 000 students.

Graz’s culture project included around 6000 events and attracted 2 755 271 visitors, which exceeded all their expectations. During the first ten months of the year accommodation providers in Graz registered 728 473 overnight stays, which represented an increase of 24,8% in comparison to 2002. This was a new tourism record for Graz. At the same time other Austrian cities, such as Vienna, Salzburg, Linz or Innsbruck achieved only small increases or even suffered setbacks. The increase in tourism in Graz was not limited to the title year, as the number of overnight stays in 2004 and 2005 surpassed the 2002 figures, which were the highest ever recorded in Graz prior to 2003.

The ECoC’s total expenditure was 58,6 million euros between 1999-2004, of which 18,2 million was invested by the city of Graz. The Province of Styria contributed with 19M€, the Republic of Austria with 15,5M€, and the EU with 0,5M€. The remaining 6,4 million euros came pretty much half and half from sponsoring and receipts. The project was a financial success as it is estimated that the ECoC generated around 80 million euros for Graz, a profit of over 20 million euros to the total investments and over four times the amount the city itself invested into the project. Furthermore, it is estimated that the ECoC created or secured employment for over 1500 people.



Graz 2003 Final Report

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A tour through Europe: Genoa 2004


Genoa, the capital of the Liguria region in northwest Italy, was European Capital of Culture (ECoC) in 2004, together with Lille from France. Like many other former industrial cities, Genoa faced a crisis due to the diminished importance of its industry and harbour. Genoa has since moved towards a post-industrial orientation, focusing more on service industries. The city’s university, research centers and growing IT industry are manifestations of a new era for Genoa. Despite these major changes, the identity of the city was still firmly connected to its industrial past and to its harbour, which is one of the biggest in the Mediterranean Sea. Furthermore, Genoa’s cultural identity was incoherent, despite the city’s remarkable cultural heritage, newly renovated opera house, several theaters, and the fact that some of Italy’s greatest chansonniers originate from Genoa. Indeed, the ECoC designation was seen as a great opportunity to change the city’s identity to fit better with its current activities. Another major goal that Genoa wanted to achieve through the ECoC was to boost its tourism sector by increasing its number of visitors to two million for the title year.

Genoa’s main areas of focus were updating the image of the city and enhancing its national and international profile, with more importance placed on nationally increasing the status and reputation of Genoa as a cultural city. However, Genoa did not want to entirely abandon its cultural roots as an industrial city, but rather connect them more meaningfully to its contemporary cultural identity. Indeed, the single largest financial investment for Genoa targeted the restoration of cultural heritage sites, along with re-organizing the network of the city’s museums, for which around 200 million euros were allocated.

In the end, Genoa significantly surpassed its goal of attracting two million visitors, as the number of visitors for the year reached around 2,8 million. Another notable achievement for Genoa was winning the Globe Award for the Best New Tourism Project Worldwide, assigned by the British Guild of Travel Writers. Genoa’s visitor figures are even more impressive when compared with the visitor statistics of the Liguria region and entire Italy during the same time period. While the number of visitors in Genoa increased from the year 2003 by 7,97%, the number of visitors in the Liguria region decreased by 3,97%, and in Italy as a whole the decrease was 2,20%. Moreover, it is estimated that the ECoC generated 220,5-262,5 million euros. According to a market research on the attendance of a sample of mainly large events, most participants rated these events very positively. 32% of surveyed visitors said they enjoyed the visit beyond their expectations. In addition, a clear majority of Italian (72,3%) and Genoese (88,5%) respondents felt that the ECoC had a positive effect on Genoa and that the consequences could be long-lasting. Thus, it is clear that Genoa reached its goal of enhancing its image on a national level.



European Culture Capitals and Local Development Strategies: Comparing the Genoa 2004 and Lille 2004 Cases

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A tour through Europe: Lille 2004


Lille was one of the two European Capitals of Culture (ECoC) in 2004, alongside the Italian city Genoa. The northern French city is located close to the Belgian border and has benefitted from its location near to the Netherlands, Germany and England, as this made it possible for Lille to become a major commercial center already in the 1300s. In the 1800s Lille became a notable area for the textile industry. However, in the 1960s the textile industry declined along with the mechanical industry, which was another major source of livelihood for the Lille metropolitan area. This resulted in an economically challenging period for the metropolitan area and for the entire Nord-Pas-de-Calais, a former administrative region of France. Thereafter, the service economy became the new focus for the region.

Lille already had a reputation as a cultural city even before the ECoC designation, as the city was known for several cultural institutions such as an opera house, the Lille National Symphonic Orchestra, the second largest fine arts museum in France and the Lille Grand Palais, which is a congress hall, an exhibitions center and a theater. In addition, Lille is renowned for its achievements in the research and education sectors, ranking in many fields at the top of the national standings. Despite its reputation in the fields of culture and education, Lille still suffered from a negative image caused by the fact that 400 000 jobs were lost in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region between 1946 and 1986, which is a typical phenomenon that has been witnessed in several other post-industrial areas as well, such as Liverpool or Bilbao. Indeed, a major goal of the ECoC was to create more opportunities for growth, in order to increase the vitality of the region and to change its image to a more positive one.

The city’s goal was to create a large-scale urban transformation, and not just for Lille, but for the entire metropolitan area, including altogether 193 cities and towns and a section of the Belgian territory. The goal was to increase the attractiveness of the region and develop its cultural sector, and also to attract national and foreign corporations to the area in order to enhance the region’s economy. In fact, Lille’s project networking was so extensive that their ECoC can be considered to have been the “most European” that had taken place until that point. The Lille 2004 ECoC programme attracted around 9 million people to 2 500 events and featured around 17 500 cultural producers. 39% of the events had free admission, which enabled wide participation. Children and youth were also well included, with over 1 200 schools involved in the programme and over 900 events specially targeted at very young audiences.

The ECoC has had a significant impact on Lille, and a clear indicator of its immediate success was that 96% of visitors rated the culture programme a success and encouraged people to visit the city. In order to ensure the continuation of the positive development achieved by the ECoC, Lille founded the Lille 3000 association to coordinate and organize cultural seasons in Lille, with a different theme on each occasion, once every three years. The first three seasons (2006, 2009 and 2012) each received around two million visitors, which was widely considered an impressive achievement.  Furthermore, as of 2015, Lille’s tourism office had increased its number of visitors by around 40% in “normal” (years without a cultural season) years, as opposed to pre-ECoC. In terms of employment, the ECoC gave a massive boost to the cultural sector, as during the years 2003-2008 jobs in the cultural field increased by 22%, and also jobs in the hospitality sector increased by 15% within the metropolis. In conclusion, Lille managed to strengthen its reputation as a cultural capital through the ECoC, as well as to change the negative image that was previously attached to it due to the unemployment crisis, which took place during the post-industrial era, as the region transformed more towards service economy. Lille is often considered one of the most successful ECoCs, together with the likes of Glasgow (1990) and Liverpool (2008), and a lot can be learned from their programme and long-term cultural strategy.



European Culture Capitals and Local Development Strategies: Comparing the Genoa 2004 and Lille 2004 Cases

From Lille2004 to Lille3000: The voyage goes on

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A tour through Europe: Cork 2005


Cork was European Capital of Culture (ECoC) in 2005, but before exploring their title year, let’s have a look at the brief history of the Irish city. Cork’s long and arduous history is pivotal to Ireland’s fight for independence. The city’s story starts in the 7th century, as St Finbarre founded a monastery on a corcach (marshy place). During the next 500 years Cork faced raids and a settlement by Vikings, and by the 12th century it had become the main city of the Kingdom of South Munster. The Irish didn’t manage to stay in power for long, and by 1185 Cork was under English rule. After that the ownership of Cork switched regularly between Ireland and the Crown forces as their conflicts continued.

The 1700s were a prosperous period for Cork as they exported butter, beef, beer and whiskey around the world. During the 1800s, however, famine struck Cork and the entire Ireland, resulting in the death and emigration of millions of Cork’s inhabitants.

Due to Cork’s deep-seated Irishness, it was inevitable that the city played a key role in Ireland’s fight for independence. Mayor Tomás Mac Curtain was assassinated by the Black and Tans in 1920. His successor, Terence MacSwiney, died in Brixton prison in London as a result of a hunger strike. The British caused a lot of damage in Cork, for example by burning much of the center, including St Patrick’s Street, the City Hall and the Public Library. Cork had a major role also in Ireland’s Civil War in 1922–23.

Cork is known as the “Rebel County” because of its history as a stronghold for guerilla fighters during the Irish war for independence and the civil war. This “rebel” status is still attached to Cork as the locals are notorious for a partisan sense of local pride. This ideology is probably most famously displayed through the “People’s Republic of Cork” (PROC) brand, the design of which has been inspired by socialist propaganda, and which humorously claims Cork to be independent from the centralized government. On the one hand, this strong identity has enabled local cultural and artistic actors to grow and develop, as Cork has supported for example local musicians instead of relying on cultural operators and products transported from elsewhere. On the other hand, the Cork 2005, the organizing team for the European Capital of Culture programme, felt that this strong sense of local pride led to cultural separation, and so they wanted to move away from this partisan “People’s Republic of Cork” ideology in order to create a programme that was not only Cork’s, but one that belonged to the entire Ireland, and one that could be shared with the whole Europe and the entire world.

Cork’s ECoC programme included 244 events and activities. In 2003, the ECoC organizers issued a public call in order to get ideas from the locals regarding the content of the Cork 2005 culture programme. Over 2000 ideas were submitted and in the end 70% of the culture programme’s content consisted from these ideas from the locals. In this respect it can be said that the organizers’ goal of making the programme inclusive via the public call was very successful.

Some of the most important goals for Cork 2005 were to produce “high-quality” art and to build relations with international partners. These aspects could be seen in some of the most high-profile events of the culture programme. For example, the Relocation theatre event staged performances by four prominent European theatre companies in different places in Cork. Translations, in turn, was an exchange where Irish and Eastern European poets translated each other’s texts into their respective languages, and Cork Caucus was a collaboration for which international cultural practitioners arrived in Cork to engage in dialogue about art practice through conversations and workshops.

The Cork City Council (CCC) announced in 2007 that Cork 2005 had been “an outstanding economic success and greatly exceeded what we might have reasonably expected.” According to the CCC, the total revenue investment in Cork 2005 was 17M€ (not including private-sector sponsorship). The CCC stated that the extra 90M€ earned in 2005 was the immediate economic return and that the ECoC had laid foundations for more financial income to be attained in the future. The number of visitors increased by 38% during the title year in comparison to the number of visitors in 2003. Further testament to the Cork’s ECoC’s long-lasting effects was Lonely Planet’s evaluation of the city, as they rated Cork as one of the top 10 cities to visit in 2010, stating “The stock of the so-called ‘Rebel County’ has been on the rise even more since it was named the European Capital of Culture in 2005: modern glass-and-steel offices and apartment buildings adorn the banks of the River Lee; new galleries, arts festivals, bars and shops have added to the city’s cache; and restaurants and local food producers have come into their own to make Cork a foodie paradise.”



Urban anxieties and creative tensions in the European Capital of Culture 2005

Lonely Planet

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A tour through Europe: Luxembourg 2007


Luxembourg and Greater Region was European Capital of Culture (ECoC) in 2007, at the same time with the Romanian city Sibiu. Luxembourg is located on the cultural divide between Romance Europe and Germanic Europe, and so it has been heavily influenced by both cultures, which can also be seen in the official languages, which are French, German and Luxembourgish. Luxembourg was founded in 963 and became a Grand Duchy in 1815, and nowadays it is home to many EU institutions and international businesses, especially banks. The population of Luxembourg is over 600,000, and the country’s income per capita is one of the highest in the world. Many workers cross the border every day from Germany, France and Belgium, as 44% of the jobs in the Grand Duchy are done by cross-border workers. In 2007, 42% of the population was foreign by nationality. Luxembourg is one of the five regions of the Grande Région (GR), which is a territory that also includes Wallonia in Belgium, Lorraine in France, as well as Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland in Germany, and is home to around 10 million people. For around half a century the GR has been significant in terms of political cooperation between the territories, especially in terms of common economic interests.

In 2007 Luxembourg became the only city to have held the ECoC title on two occasions, as it first held the title in 1995. Many people felt that before 1995 Luxembourg’s cultural sector was lacking facilities and provision, and that young local artists usually went abroad to study. However, the cultural sector developed massively between 1995 and 2007, as the cultural infrastructure was renovated, or new infrastructure was built with investments totaling over half a billion euros. Despite these changes, many cultural stakeholders felt that Luxembourg’s cultural offering did not answer the needs and interests of non-nationals and youth, which is why it was decided that the 2007 ECoC would focus on contemporary forms of culture, to make the programme more appealing for young people. Luxembourg also wanted to create a cross-border cultural programme to create cohesion between the five territories as well as promote the image of the “Greater Luxembourg Region”. Over half of the 584 projects in the culture programme took place in Luxembourg, and 139 projects, around a quarter of the total amount, were cross-border projects that took place in two or more territories. The French and German areas also organized many projects in their regions, and the cooperation with the other ECoC, Sibiu, was also notable, as there were many shared projects between them and Luxembourg. None of the projects took place solely in Wallonia, the Belgian territory of the GR.

It is estimated that the ECoC generated 56M€ of direct additional visitor expenditure, which can be considered a good figure when compared to the estimated range of the ECoCs during the years 1995-2003, which was 10M€-37,5M€. Some of the most notable legacies of the ECoC include i) the continuation of some cultural activities and new cultural facilities that stayed in operation; ii) the formation of a new operational structure in Luxembourg to continue implementing its youth programme; iii) continued cross-border cooperation between cultural authorities and between cultural operators themselves. Indeed, the creation of the informal links between the cultural operators and the strengthening of the administrative infrastructure for cross-border cultural collaboration can be considered as the biggest successes of the Luxembourg and GR ECoC. Luxembourg also managed to harness the creative and artistic potential of the region, particularly focusing on the avant-garde aspects, and achieved their goal of drawing more young people to participate in cultural activities. In conclusion, the 2007 ECoC built on the progress made during Luxembourg’s 1995 ECoC by developing the cultural scene to accommodate audiences that previously had been largely absent or under-represented in the cultural sector.



Ex-post Evaluation of 2007 & 2008 European Capitals of Culture: Final Report

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A tour through Europe: Sibiu 2007


Sibiu was European Capital of Culture in 2007 together with Luxembourg. It’s an ancient city located at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in central Romania and has a population of around 170,000. It was founded in the 1100s by Germanic settlers who had roots in the West Rhine. Sibiu remained the center of the Transylvanian Saxon community until the Second World War. However, the war, and later the end of communism in 1989, caused a massive emigration of the Germanic population. Also, the infrastructure of the city deteriorated during the communist era. However, in recent years Sibiu has repaired its infrastructure and placed more emphasis on the promotion of its German roots. Lately, the city’s economy has grown because of tourism and foreign investment, especially from German companies. Sibiu has maintained its position as a fundamental regional center for administration, industry and services.

Sibiu is a significant city especially in terms of religion, culture and learning. The city is a Metropolitan seat of the Romanian Orthodox Church, hosts two national cultural institutions – the Radu Stanca National Theatre and Brukenthal National Museum – and is home to around 30,000 university students. Even before Sibiu received the title of European Capital of Culture (ECoC) in 2007 there was plenty of cultural activity in the city that attracted both domestic and overseas tourists. Examples of internationally known events in Sibiu include its Jazz and Theatre Festivals. Furthermore, the State Philharmonic Orchestra, based at the Thalia Hall, is also located in Sibiu, as is the Gong Theatre, which exhibits mime, puppetry and innovative shows for children and youth.

Sibiu was the first city from a non-EU country to receive the ECoC title in the 21st century, although Romania did join the EU on 1st of January 2007, the same day Sibiu’s ECoC year started. The most significant motivators for Sibiu’s application were the will to make the city more known in Europe and the desire to further develop the cultural sector of the city. Sibiu’s ECoC programme consisted of 867 projects, which were attended by over one million people. The culture programme’s theme was “city of culture. city of cultures”, and the main idea was that of interaction and cooperation between different cultures, such as between Romanian and Germanic cultures. An integral aspect of the programme was utilizing the whole city center as a stage for cultural events. This resulted in an increase in cultural participation and in media interest towards the programme. Also, of note was Sibiu’s collaboration with Luxembourg, as the ECoC programme included 48 joint projects with them. A symbolic gesture of Luxembourg’s importance to the project was the re-naming of the building that hosted the Sibiu co-ordination team as “Luxembourg House”.

Sibiu spent 17,2M€ on the ECoC, the two biggest funders being the City Council and the Ministry of Culture, who together provided roughly three quarters of the total budget. The Sibiu final report states that the ECoC increased the turnover of key economic sectors related to the ECoC by 9,5% overall, with tourist operators securing the highest increase (13,7%). According to Richards and Rotariu the number of overnight stays increased by 36% compared with the same period in 2005. Furthermore, nearly a third of the visitors in Richards and Rotariu’s survey identified the ECoC as the reason for their arrival in Sibiu, which suggests that the advertisement of the ECoC had been rather successful.

Participants were generally very satisfied with the culture programme, as those interviewed rated it 8,6/10 on average. The interviewees also felt that the ECoC had increased Sibiu’s vibrancy and developed the cultural sector, as well as led to a clear increase in cultural participation. Evidence of this is the increased popularity of the Radu Stanca Theatre, as they have significantly increased ticket sales post-ECoC, in 2008 and 2009. Another major cultural development was the establishment of a new ballet company in Sibiu. Furthermore, some events created for the ECoC have remained active post-ECoC, such as the Transylvania Film Festival and the Georgia Anesco classical music festival. Moreover, 65% of the locals felt that the culture programme had increased the social cohesion of Sibiu.

Surveys suggest that the ECoC changed Europeans’ view of Sibiu. In 2006 0,5% of respondents around Europe answering to a survey rated Sibiu among the top 5 European cultural destinations. During the title year the figure was 3,5%. Sibiu’s promotion of the European dimension was seen during the title year in its collaboration with other European countries, as 73 ECoC projects were collaborations with other EU member states. Additionally, there were six projects with other countries (Israel, Cuba, Croatia and Serbia). Sibiu didn’t leave the collaborations just for the title year though, but continued to increase international cooperation post-ECoC, evidence of which is the 30% increase from 2007 to 2008 in events organized together with other European cultural operators.

As a long-lasting benefit, the ECoC gave the cultural operators experience and skills that they can use in the future when organizing cultural activity in Sibiu and elsewhere. Finally, the culture programme reportedly changed many locals’ mindsets towards culture, as they began seeing it as a positive and useful thing instead of an irrelevant waste of money. The evidence suggests that Sibiu achieved its main goals of increasing its visibility in Europe and of developing its cultural sector. The ECoC can therefore be rated to have been successful and to have provided Sibiu with a solid platform on top of which to keep building the cultural future of the city.



Ex-post Evaluation of 2007 & 2008 European Capitals of Culture: Final Report

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