What is a European Capital of Culture?

“A European Capital of Culture is an international cultural project designed to promote the various cultures of Europe. The Capital of Culture is Europe’s most ambitious event in the area of art and culture. It works like this: every year, two countries in the European Union hold a national election. An international jury then appoints one city in each of these countries to become a European Capital of Culture for one year. Leeuwarden is one of these two European cities for 2018, and we’re pretty proud of this, too! It’s not possible for a region to compete for the title, something Friesland tried in 2011. When it became clear that this wasn’t possible, Leeuwarden was introduced as a candidate, but always with the underlying aim of attracting the region as a whole. But it's not just a Frisian festivity; Leeuwarden-Friesland European Capital of Culture 2018 is a Dutch event, with the epicentre being Leeuwarden and the province of Friesland. Leeuwarden-Friesland is, on behalf of the Netherlands, the European Capital of Culture.”

How did Leeuwarden, together with Friesland, win the title of European Capital of Culture 2018?

“In 2013, the European jury were most convinced of the ideas presented in our bid book (presentation booklet). The central theme in the bid book was Iepen Mienskip (open community); working towards a better world from the bottom-up and in an open connection with it. This bottom-up collaboration is reflected in all projects of the 2018 programme through involvement of all kinds of individuals, associations, organisations and companies.

One notion in particular, that of actually leaving something lasting behind through these events, spoke directly to the jury’s heart. We believe that cultural initiatives need to mean something. That they inject a fresh impulse into our lives and manner of thinking. This can happen in many different ways, for example, in the field of clean drinking water, multicultural society, sustainable innovation and poverty reduction.”

What is the iepen mienskip exactly?

“Iepen Mienskip is the overall theme of our programme: Leeuwarden-Friesland 2018. Through hundreds of projects, we illustrate the iepen mienskip to the Netherlands and the rest of Europe; a self-willed and committed community who pay attention to each other's ideas, opportunities and challenges. By exhibiting our cultural colour in 2018, we aim to connect with the different communities across Europe. Both online as in real life. Iepen means open, in other words we don't stay hidden away in our little corner, but we gaze outward and collaborate. Iepen means cooperating with others on a local, national and European level. It means being open to those around you.”

Is there collaboration between LF2018 and Valletta2018, both Cultural Capitals of Europe in 2018?

“Absolutely, we work together on many levels and in different disciplines. PoeticPotatoes (regular exchange of Maltese and Bildt potatoes and poems) and Look@Me (film project) are just a few examples. Another is a cooperation between the Friesland College (D'Drive) and a Maltese school; exhibitions and exchanges result in joint productions for Opera Spanga. Teachers from both cities give workshops to each other's pupils and together they design costumes for the Aida Opera, also part of the LF2018 programme.”

What will happen to the ideas of local Frisians regarding 2018?

“Initiators report to the counters in their respective municipality, via stipe.frl, Greidesessies, the provincial Iepen Mienskipsfûns and the Information Centre in the Blokhuispoort. Planners receive advice and are helped along the way. All projects are then included in an event calendar.”

Why aren’t there any Frisian artists participating in the 11Fountains project?

“Frisians collaborate with each other on the vast majority of projects. Whether artist, entrepreneur or volunteer. We chose international artists for 11Fountains simply because we wanted beautiful and unique fountains, matching the eleven cities. By going for international artists, we dare to dream big, sticking our head out above the parapet. It’s actually very un-Frisian if you like. So, at the same time, it also signifies this new phase.”

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