Memo December 2009

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A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in December 2009

New beginnings are ahead of us. Perhaps more than on an average new year.

Creative vision

The EU2020 strategy, the first draft for the seven years between 2014-2020, is on display for comments. The general orientation and the priorities suggest moving towards a favourable environment for culture, although concrete references are missing, and BO failed to find the pegs in the text where such references can be attached – you have two more weeks before the 15 January deadline to do so. Creativity is certainly a recurring term, yet the closing event of the dedicated year, as well as the creativity manifesto have failed to explore the exact links and transfers between promoting culture and increasing creativity. (Focus on the next generation rather?)

Twelve links toward urban policy

The Lisbon treaty promises more power for cities and regions. Time to map the efforts made in favour of local cultural policies. Of these, Agenda 21 for culture is the most venerable. In addition to a dozen or so provinces and regions, 150 cities in the world have subscribed to the declaration: about two third in Europe, with four cities in our region: Novi Sad, Pécs, Riga and Tallinn (plus the Vojvodina region in Serbia).

The relatively modest penetration of Agenda 21 in the Anglo-Saxon world can be attributed to the creativity hype, discussed by Gottfried and Philipp in the liveliest section of Report 5, issued at the 5th anniversary of the Agenda.

Europe was the partisan of the creative city concept, before the show was largely stolen by America – also scene of the next creative city summit in April. (A speaker at the Prague forum keeps striving for Europe.)

Embarrassingly, Unesco, too, administers a list of creative cities. Of the 19 holders of the title eight are from Europe (none from our region).

Not to speak of the British Council, whose creative city project has gained considerable acclaim in eastern Europe. Although the scheme is not confined to our region, we seem to be a priority target area.

A related prize

Agenda 21 for culture is linked to Barcelona. So is the architecture prize of the EU.

Where else could the European prize for urban public space be anchored? Together with five more European institutions, the centre for contemporary culture in Barcelona (CCCB) expects applications for the sixth round of the prize before 29 January. At the five earlier occasions 634 spots that function as catalysts of urban life were submitted from 36 countries of Europe. This includes 56 submissions from 14 east European countries, bringing a European Prize for Zadar, Croatia, and a special mention for Cracow, Poland. (To boost eastern pride, we may mention the prize for Leipzig, and a jury prize for the temporary conversion of the Palast der Republic of the GDR in Berlin.)

Crisis strikes capital

European capitals of culture (ecoc-s, find a rich record of the first decades) are cradles for urban prizes of the future. What is there to know about this year’s capitals?

Shocking news. One of the fourteen goals set for Vilnius a few years ago foresaw at least 15% growth for tourism. Actually, the various tourism indicators for 2009 show a decrease of 15-20%. It is a cruel fact that this unique opportunity befell Vilnius when the global crisis brutally struck the country.

A drop in visitors’ number in ecoc year is not without precedent, the Palmer report cites such mishaps in Dublin 91, Madrid 92, Luxembourg 95, and Prague 00. We have learned since Glasgow 90 that sustainable impact is the most essential output. Let us come back on the Vilnius ecoc after a few years and we shall find that indeed, 2009 has left its mark! The Liverpool task force will surely re-visit Vilnius.

Incomparable capitals

It surprised BO that amidst the ocean of words very few reliable, plain and comparable data are publicly available on the ecocs of the past few years. Luxembourg 07 is an exception, Sibiu 07 would cost you, Stavanger 08 – as if never had taken place (BO detected 15% increase in the international flight passangers in 2008), Liverpool 08 – watch out for the 11.5Mb vanity brochure, Linz 09 is fine.  

Linz reported 2.8 million ecoc visits (3.3 in Luxembourg, 15 in Liverpool), probably the most common benchmark. Linz also reported 638 thousand hotel nights, a 11.4% increase from 2008 – exactly what the Palmer report found as long time average.

Czech preparations

There were three cities, now there are two. Hradec Králové is out, there remain Ostrava and Plzeň competing for the 2015 ecoc title.

Festival rating accomplished

Just as calculated, using the same criteria for rating festivals as diverse as the Summerfest folklore festival and the opera festival at Miskolc posed great challenges to each participant and observer of the undertaking – and still we managed. The process of course needs a lot of improvement, which will be done in 2010.

By the way, join us in discussing festivals with intellectual loading in Poznań in April.

Bosch calls you

Check an opportunity for young (future) cultural managers from eastern Europe.