We’ve all heard about the European Capital of Culture, but did you ever wonder how did this program start?
One of the most prestigious titles granted by the European Union is the “European Capital of Culture”.Every year, the EU selects a few cities from different countries, which have the chance to host cultural events for one year. During this time, the chosen city can show its cultural life and its cultural development on the European and international scene.
This way, the Capitals of Culture have a unique chance to transform their cultural infrastructures, boosting the local economy and attracting more tourists. This title became popular very quickly, and year after year, it attracted the attention of more and more cities, and for this reason, the EU needed to regulate the selection procedure. In fact, as it already happened for many others European projects, this programme has also changed completely from its origins.
The predecessor of the current Capital of Culture programme was known as the "European City of Culture", which was launched by the European Council of Ministers in 1985, when Athens became the first selected city. The current programme was only launched in 2000, when nine cities obtained this prestigious nomination.
Until 2004, the "European Cities of Culture" were designated on an intergovernmental basis. In 2005 the Irish city of Cork, was the first one to be awarded this title with the participation of the European institutions in the selection process.
In 2004, the European Capital of Culture, Lille introduced the innovative system of ambassadors, where inhabitants of the city and its surrounding areas could volunteer to receive and transmit information and updates, to assist in the production of events and participate in special activities. More than 17,000 volunteers from all social classes worked as ambassadors, forming a very popular system of information transmission.
This way, they also involved the local community, improving the image of the city and giving it a great public support. This demonstrated that a primary factor in the success of the European Capitals of Culture is the involvement of local people.
Apart from the European Capital of Culture, in 1992, the Ministries of Culture also launched the "European Cultural Month", an event similar to the European Cities of Culture, but with a shorter life. This programme was also granted by the European Commission, who could designate cities of both EU and non-EU countries. Unfortunately, the European Cultural Month Programme concluded in 2003.