The ECoC title gives cities the opportunity to increase their visibility, attract more visitors, and showcase the city in the long term as a cultural space ideal for living or doing business.
Preparing for the candidacy can itself stimulate structural changes in the city. A prerequisite for submitting an application is the development of a comprehensive cultural and marketing strategy for the city, as well as having investments prepared for the cultural offer and cultural infrastructure. If the proverb 'the journey is the destination' applies anywhere, it is here. In the event of a successful candidacy, the title of European Capital of Culture has proven itself to bring positive economic, cultural and social impacts.
The most recent example is Pilsen 2015: "The total attendance at approximately 580 events during ECoC Pilsen 2015 amounted to 1,230,422 admissions; after subtracting those with multiple entries during their stay, this amounted to approximately 1,134,849 unique individuals. Visitor expenditure which was directly related to attendance at ECoC events held in the Czech Republic amounted to 564.3 million CZK. This expenditure caused an increase in production amounting to 711 million CZK, both for direct and indirect suppliers of goods and services to visitors. Of this, approx. 90 million CZK was spent by tourists from other countries, benefiting the whole of Czech Republic. The high attendance at ECoC events increased the GDP of the Czech economy by approximately 222.5 million CZK.Companies and entrepreneurs, direct and indirect suppliers of goods and services to visitors, increased their profits by approx. 70.5 million CZK. "Tereza Raabová et al., Economic impacT v.o.s.: European Capital of Culture Pilsen 2015: The impact of visitor spending on the Czech economy, 2016
The application is not just a multi-page document. It is the vision of what the city wants to achieve. It is a plan of cultural and social events, foreign cooperation as well as marketing strategy. Its formulation is the result of a nearly two-year analytical and creative process involving not only the city but also the region, local cultural institutions, cultural promoters and other entrepreneurs.
The preparation of the documents and analyses took all of 2021. A lot of effort will be devoted to the development of the concepts and the preparation of the application itself, known as the Bid Book, in the first half of 2022. The sixty-page application presenting the new vision of Budweis will be submitted to the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic on September 1st, 2022. It will then be reviewed by a group of independent cultural experts, the selection panel of the European Commission. Based on the applications, the panel will select the cities to be invited to submit more detailed applications for the second stage. The international panel, on behalf of the European Commission, then continuously and regularly monitor the city's preparation to ensure that the rules set at the EU level have been respected at all times and that the goals of the application that led to the city being awarded the title are being met.
Generally speaking, most candidate applications include the following topics (order does not determine priority):
- development of the grant system, open call system and their funding
- an artist residency program
- capacity building program for cultural organizations (art management, internationalization, participation in festivals, conferences, international co-productions)
- at least 1 infrastructure project (independent culture center, infrastructure for an urban cultural organization)
- large audience attraction/communication projects (opening ceremonies, events in season, etc.)
- strengthening of traditional events (festivals, etc.)
- innovative art projects (digital, site specific, etc.)
- public involvement - participatory projects, community projects, projects with specific target groups
- activities in the public space
- international and European projects
- involvement in European networks
- project mapping or discussing the identity of the city and the region
There is no minimum or maximum limit for candidate city spending. These vary considerably. From Paphos in Cyprus (2017, €9m), to Tallinn in Estonia (2011, €14m), to Linz in Austria (2009, €69m).
The largest amount goes to investments in cultural infrastructure, where most of the projects have been long in development.
In the case of Budweis, such an investment can be considered, for example, the upcoming reconstruction of Slavia or the House of Arts (the sum of expenditures for these investments alone now amounts, according to projected budgets, to €18 million).
Expenditure on the cultural program is then channeled either directly to the realization of specific events or to support the creation of new projects in the form of open grant calls. In this respect, the Budweis City Hall has already taken the first steps by almost doubling the budget for 2021 in the grant call for support of independent culture (10 million CZK for 2021). The city's total cultural expenditure in 2020 amounted to €6 million (in majority for the South Bohemian Theatre budget). Thus, the candidacy does not seem to be beyond the budgetary capability of the city.
The candidate city usually bears the majority of the project costs. A significant partner is then the state or regional government. In Pilsen, the city's share of funding was at the level of 50% of the project budget, with the city contributing 250 million CZK of the approximately 500 million CZK over the course of 5 years (2011-2016). In addition to program costs (artistic contracts, partnership agreements with co-organizers, grant system and open calls, artist residencies, production including technical costs), staff costs were also substantial (8 employees in 2011, 15 in 2012, 30 in 2013, 35 in 2014, 70 in 2015, and 20 in 2016). Another key item was communication and marketing, both at the national and the European level (media campaigns, presentations at foreign fairs, communication within the city and the region, press trips for foreign journalists, etc.).
It is estimated that the preparation of the 2021-2022 application alone could cost around 10 million CZK in salary costs for the preparation team, the implementation of pilot projects and marketing.
Budweis definitely has the potential to win the title of European Capital of Culture! We are definitely not too small a city to win. Although the title used to be awarded mainly to metropolises, the trend in recent years has been towards smaller cities with great potential for development. For example, Bad Ischl in Austria, with its 14,000 inhabitants, and Tartu in Estonia, which is as big as Budweis, were awarded the title for 2024.
Experts point out that jury members have tended to favor smaller cities in recent years. A city is not chosen for what it is, but rather for its cultural potential and future contribution to the common European cultural heritage.
(Source: European Cultural Capital 2 Report, R. Palmer, G. Richards, TRAM, 2009.)
The candidacy comes at the right time for Budweis, especially with regard to our planned investments into cultural infrastructure. After many years, the reconstruction of Slavia or the House of Arts is at its closest to being realized. Another new development is the City and Water study, according to which the Budweis City Hall is preparing a transformation of the embankments and the rivers surroundings, in 2021 there will also be an architectural competition for the revitalization of Senovážné Square with the possibility of a new gallery building at the Alš South Bohemian Gallery being announced, and Háječek is also undergoing a transformation. At the same time, alternative community spaces such as Žižkárna are being created. The city has a relatively stable and broad cultural community.
The challenging candidacy process can be an achievement in itself. In addition to the 50 cities that won the title of ECoC, at least 200 more had entered the competition as well. Many of them have made very good use of the application process itself as a key turning point in the city's cultural policy. Mapping the potential and needs of the city, its inhabitants and cultural actors, creating, discussing and approving a cultural development strategy and other related documents (definition of the vision, key objectives of the city's development, implementation plans, budget allocation) are tasks which can hardly be achieved without mutual cooperation.
There are several good examples where an unsuccessful city has brilliantly capitalized on its efforts without winning the title. One of the most interesting examples is Dublin, which dropped out in the first round. As there was already an approved budget of 1 million Euro for the candidacy, allocated directly to the mayor's office, the city decided to invest this budget in the 4 most interesting projects from their application. The Dublin Culture Connects / Dublin Culture Company was created and operated for 3 years on the 1 million Euro, bringing to life one of the most interesting community development and quality of life projects, thanks to which the city is now able to communicate with its residents much better than before the candidacy. Ostrava, which fought for the title of ECoC 2015, is another example. Although the title went to Pilsen, Ostrava implemented a large number of the projects in the application (the extension of the alternative stage in the Ostrava Puppet Theatre, revitalization of the banks of the Ostravice River, Gong in the area of Dolní Vítkovice, reconstruction of the Hlubina Mine, the International Festival Kamera Oko, the Month of Author Reading, the presentation of Ostrava's culture in Prague and others). The candidacy itself thus served the city to identify its cultural potential and make conceptual changes.
In order for the project to truly utilize the full potential of the city, everyone must be involved in the preparation of the project. From "brick-and-mortar" cultural institutions to cultural managers and promoters from the alternative scene, from experts to laymen. Politicians, academics, entrepreneurs, and the general public.
In the first analytical phase you could get involved in the city research. You still have the opportunity to sign up for the city's research panel and thus participate in the creation of new city concepts ranging from culture to healthcare.
You can find out more about the opportunity to get involved in the Get involved section.
For the most up-to-date information about the candidacy and what's happening in your city, follow us on social media @budejovice2028 or subscribe to our newsletter.