European Capital of Culture – an institution, a European designation that celebrates culture across the continent, a year-long celebration, a reason to be proud for the ‘place you come from’. These are just a few of the things that come to mind when I hear ‘European Capitals of Culture’.
As a Cypriot national, I was born and raised in Cyprus, a country that joined the EU family in 2004. Throughout my early 20’s, I had chosen to live in different cities in Europe, including Krakow, Brussels, Edinburgh and, currently, Truro. I have always been overwhelmed by the power of culture; the way it is experienced differently by people, its diversity and its power to change the world and individual lives, and to pave ways that had never been paved before.
So, naturally, I was completely over the moon when I had first heard that Pafos, a tiny town in Cyprus, was awarded with the European Capital of Culture designation for 2017. The ECoC would be a great opportunity not only for Pafos, but for Cyprus as a whole, to earn a place on the European and, why not, the global map. As a matter of fact, I was so excited about the ECoC designation, that I wrote my MSc dissertation about it! Now many of you might think: am I a culture freak? Maybe. But facts don’t change; the European Capital of Culture can be the best thing to ever happen to a city/region.
But what makes a city, a region? Is it the landscape? Is it the sights, the buildings? Of course not; it’s the people that make the city, the local community and its cultural baggage. And it is thus the local community that is the main stakeholder of any important events that take place within any region, such as the ECoC event. Without the support of people and the community a region cannot achieve anything – which brings me to my next crucial point: Truro2023.
I have only been in Cornwall for three months, and, despite I’m not originally Cornish, I do feel like I’m part of the community. For this reason, I believe and support Cornwall with all my heart in its effort to submit a bid to earn the UK nomination for the European Capital of Culture. Bad news is, not everyone in Cornwall is in the same boat. A great number of people have failed to realise that a potential ECoC designation in Cornwall would be a great thing for Cornwall in a number of ways.
The bid for Truro 2023 needs the support of everyone in Cornwall. The support of the community is not only an official prerequisite for ECoC bidding cities, but also a decisive factor for the success of the event. A number of bidding cities make an effort to engage local people in the bidding process, by encouraging people to submit their own ideas for the programme, or by organising campaigns, consultation sessions and events. For example, over 150,000 people endorsed Liverpool’s ECoC bid for 2008, with over 100,000 (including 35,000 school children!) helping to ‘shape’ it. Events and actions such as community consultation sessions, information events and campaigns are no doubt in the pipeline in order to, on the one hand, provide valid information to the community regarding what an ECoC designation entails for Cornwall and, on the other hand, to actively include the people of Cornwall and share ideas with them regarding the bid.
Aspiring ECoC cities must prove that the support of the local community is evident from the bidding process. Unless the ECoC bid for Truro 2023 earns the sincere support from the community, it is destined to fail, because community support is everything. So, let’s all get on board.
Yiota Liopetriti, Catalyst Skills Programme Coordinator
Cornwall Museums Partnership