Written by Anna Puhr, alumna Cultural Studies 2019-2020
The European Capital of Culture (ECOC) initiative sheds an impressive light on the relevance of cities and their culture for the development of Europe. Every year two cities succeed with their candidacy and receive the title of being ECOC aiming at shaping an extraordinary year of the respective cultural capital as sustainable and ambitious as possible.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 counts definitely as one of the most – or even the most – challenging year for the ECOC presidency which was awarded jointly to Galway in the West of Ireland and to Rijeka in Croatia. While the actual program for both cities has not been totally cancelled, their offer has been much reduced by the nature and impact of the global pandemic. Universities often play a major role in the ECOC of their city either in forging research focused on the arts throughout Europe, in working with city councils in evaluating the bid or in defining new cultural and educational initiatives within their local communities.
In Ireland, NUI Galway was due to host the University Network of European Capitals of Culture (UNeECC); an academic network that comprises almost 50 member universities from 20 countries located in cities which have been, are or will be European Capitals of Culture. As the annual conference had to be postponed in view of the current situation, NUI Galway instead invited interdisciplinary contributions to an online Special Issue of the University Network of European Capitals of Culture. This Special Issue provides an opportunity to learn more about how both cities, Ireland and Croatia, have adapted their programmes and to understand better the pan-European responses to the impact on artists, cultural workers, local communities and universities.
As Leuven announced its ambition to candidate as ECOC 2030, a KU Leuven research team of Cultural Studies initiated a project to examine how needs and changing cultural preferences of international residents can be more included, as reported earlier: https://culturalstudiesleuven.net/2020/03/18/research-project-leuven-as-european-capital-of-culture-2030/.
The final results have been virtually presented to the city hall’s Arts Advisory Board Meeting in March 2020. In order to reach a wider audience and increase understanding of the potential to include a city’s international audience in cultural activities foreseen with regards to an ECOC year and beyond, the project was submitted and successfully chosen for the Special Issue of the University Network of European Capitals of Culture “The ART of REIMAGINING” which will be published this November (see the call for contributions: “ https://mooreinstitute.ie/2020/07/06/european-capitals-of-culture-the-art-of-reimagining-call-for-contributions/).