The Capital of Culture?
Not a lot of people know about Stavanger's big moment. Or at least, not a lot of people in the UK, for whom there is only one capital of culture, Liverpool.
But since 2000, there have been two capitals of culture on four other occasions.
Funny how this fact is conveniently forgotten over here...
Last edited by Kev; 01-09-2008 at 10:19 PM.
You're bound to only be bothered about your own though and BBC Radio Merseyside have mentioned on a few occassions that they also have it and that Basle and Dublin and Graz and Glasgow etc etc have all had it in the past. I wonder if Stavanger know of ours as they're busy bigging up their own?
what actually is the event all about ?
Originally Posted by Ged
They both know about each other, a delegation from Stavanger visited in 2004. I'm sure I read something in the echo around then that Liverpool wasnt too keen on sharing the title, seeing itself as the far more important of the capitals
This is so bollocks - in 2000 there were nine 'Capitals of Culture'. WTF?!
A tale of two cities of culture: Liverpool vs Stavanger
Merseyside isn't the only place to have launched its year as European Capital of Culture. So how does it compare with its tiny Norwegian competitor? Mark Hughes reports
Published: 14 January 2008
* Population: 446,000
* Unemployment: 5 per cent
* Average personal Income :£16,234
* Life expectancy: Men 74, women 78
* Year of Culture budget £110m
* Orchestras: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
* Art Galleries: Walker Art Gallery, Tate Liverpool
* Major artists: George Stubbs, painter of Whistlejacket
Liverpool's Capital of Culture year burst into life on Friday night with a street party that lasted just 40 minutes. But, if the celebrations were short, the strides required in getting to this point have been anything but.
It started four-and-a-half years ago, cost nearly £100m and, along the way, has seen in-fighting and feuding of epic proportions. In fact, Friday night's celebrations could have been held to cheer the fact that Capital of Culture year is even happening at all.
Highlights in a programme of 350 events planned for the next 12 months include the Tall Ships race, the Open golf championship and the National Ballet of China all arriving on Merseyside.
And, most mouth-watering of all for the tens of thousands of Scousers who will pack the city's Anfield stadium on 1 June to see him, is the return of Beatles' icon Sir Paul McCartney, who will top the bill at a rock concert.
But, events behind the scenes have, perhaps annoyingly for the organisers who have invested so much time into the project, garnered even more publicity than those out front.
The first debate came over the independence of the Liverpool Culture Company (LCC), which was formed by the city council. But with around 65 per cent of its funding and most of its staff coming from the local authority, independence was always unlikely.
A bitter feud between the then leader of the council, Mike Storey, and the council's chief executive, Sir David Henshaw, ensued and resulted in both men resigning.
Then there was the appointment of the Australian cabaret singer Robyn Archer as creative director of the LCC. Although appointed in 2004, she only came to work full-time in Liverpool in April 2006 after troubles obtaining a work visa and was given a £125,000 four months later after her direction was not deemed artistic enough.
The next embarrassment came last year when the popular Mathew Street festival was cancelled at the last minute because of health and safety fears.
Confidence in the LCC wasn't exactly restored when, after seven weeks on sick leave, the company's chief executive Jason Harborrow quit just days before the opening ceremony. Negotiations for a £250,000 pay off continue.
On the back of his departure, it has transpired that the aforementioned Mr Storey and Warren Bradley, the current council leader, are to be investigated by the local government watchdog, the Standards Board for England for conspiring to get rid of Mr Harborrow. Add to this the fact that the design for the Museum of Liverpool Life - the intended iconic building for 2008 – had to be scrapped after it was realised it would cost £100m more than expected, and that there are reports the council are facing a £20m budget shortfall, it could be forgiven if the LCC's aim was simply to get through the Capital of Culture year without any more scandal.
However that is not the case. The defined aims for Liverpool Capital of Culture 2008 are more ambitious. In the same way that it could be asked why Stavanger, an already wealthy city, needs the potential cash fillip that being Capital of Culture will bring, it can also be asked why Liverpool, a needs the title?
After all, the city is famed for its numerous pop acts - it has provided more UK chart number one hits (54) per head of population than any other metropolis on the planet and is famed for era-defining acts such as The Beatles. The fact is Liverpool needs the Capital of Culture title more for the regeneration of the city than as an excuse to bring even more events to the city.
The Capital of Culture year will, hopefully, attract two million visitors to the city and bring in a cash boost to the city of more than £2bn in investment and provide an extra 14,000 jobs. The cash spin-offs for the surrounding north-west region could total £100m.
The figures will make pleasant reading to residents of a city which is blighted by high levels of unemployment and personal debt levels which are well above the national average.
* Population: 117,000
* Unemployment: 1.1 per cent
* Life expectancy: Men 77, women 82
* Year of Culture budget: £28.5m
* Orchestras: Stavanger Symfoniorkester
* Art Galleries: Rogaland Kunstmuseum, Rogaland Kunstsenter
* Major artists: Jan Groth, New York-based modern artist
While Liverpool cheered at the sight of Ringo Starr shouting his love for the city, the celebrations nearly 600 miles away in Stavanger had a distinctly more regal feel to them.
The "other" Capital of Culture held its opening ceremony on Saturday night, a day later than its British counterpart, and, somewhat surprisingly, drew a bigger crowd: an estimated 50,000 people crammed into Stavanger's city centre, among them the King and Queen of Norway.
They kicked off their year of culture with a huge parade through the streets of the city and were entertained by performances from artists at various venues in the city centre before the obligatory firework display brought proceedings to a close.
However, it's fair to say that Stavanger 2008 had not been as hotly anticipated as the Merseyside version. Some local artists, musicians and performers have refused to give their backing to the event. And the organisation "Ka da ittepa?" ("What then after?") believes the year may have no lasting effect. Other critics have said that, with a budget of 300m kroner (nearly £30m), the culture year is a waste of money. The crowds on Saturday may have shown that the dissenting voices are in the minority, but why did the city bid for the title?
Unlike Liverpool, it is not using the year of culture as a chance to regenerate the city. Nor is it bracing itself for an influx of visitors as a result of its new-found status. The city does not need the money being Capital of Culture could provide. It is already very wealthy. The average annual wage is more than £30,000 and its unemployment rate is just 1 per cent. The only official reason is, rather romantically, simply that the city wants to promote culture and raise the city's profile.
The theme of Stavanger's year is Open Port - a series of events that will encourage major artists to visit the city and work with local artists, and to encourage local people to make their own art. At the heart of the theme are four month-long residencies from various international groups - music theatre company Muziektheater Transparant, Lithuanian group Oskaras Korsunovas Theatre, Israeli dance company Inbal Pinto and the South African Handspring Puppet Company.
The head of Stavanger's Culture organisation is a Scottish journalist and former violinist, Mary Miller. She said of the bid: "When I first arrived, I thought, why does this place need to be European Capital of Culture? It's an extraordinarily precious place, almost like a little utopia. It is a massive investment in people. You look at this pristine country, in many senses the chief enemy here is that it is as good as it is."
Liverpool and Stavanger do have some things in common. For a start, the people are proud of their distinctive identities. Where Liverpool has Scousers, Stavanger has Siddis - the word used to describe someone born there, who speaks the dialect, and whose parents were from Stavanger. And both cities owe much of their economy to their respective ports.
But the architecture of the cities is rather different. A typical Liverpool street scene is a row of two-up, two-down Georgian terrace houses, while most city centre buildings have their roots in Edwardian architecture.
Stavanger, on the other hand, boasts of being the wooden-house capital of Norway. The reason: simply that there is a lot of it about. Indeed much of the city's history can be told in stories of natural resources, from its economic foundations in timber and paper mills, to its Viking empire built on wooden ships.
The cities also have different cultural backgrounds. Liverpool has its roots firmly in pop music icons such as The Beatles; Stavanger's main cultural export is its symphony orchestra. And this year it will capitalise on the year of culture by hosting the European Amateur Brass Band championships, a big event in a country where such bands are an institution.
They've kept rather quiet about their year of culture in Norway, but now they are ready to make a bit of noise.
What became of previous European Capitals of Culture?
* Athens 1985
The hope: The first European City of Culture, Athens was used as a blueprint for others. The dream: was to foster deeper knowledge of the differences and similarities of cultures among the EU.
The reality: Hundreds of events were held throughout Greece showing the best of the country's dance, music, theatre and film.
The legacy: Transport and amenities improved greatly. It is now the sixth most-visited capital in the world and hosted the Olympics.
* Glasgow 1990
The hope: As the first British city to be named European City of Culture, its aims were simple; it wanted to lose the "mean city" tag.
The reality: The city's theatres, museums and art galleries saw a 40 per cent increase in visitors during the year.
The legacy: When the city made the bid in 1983 it attracted tens of thousands of tourists a year. That figure is now 4 million. However, a report suggests that Glasgow's image changed only superficially.
* Dublin 1991
The hope: Aimed to provide a spring to its economy by moving away from its turbulent past. Sought to move into a new era of tourism, redevelopment and investment.
The reality: Dublin's year didn't get off to a good start with many critics fearing it could become an underfinanced flop.
The legacy: The city is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world. In 2003, it was named in a BBC survey as the best capital city to live in Europe.
* Cork 2005
The hope: To provide a tourism boost, raise the profile of a city and bring social, cultural and economic benefits to the area.
The reality: The city saw a 25 per cent rise in tourism in the first three months and the title was the catalyst for bringing in investment, and for the expansion of the city's airport.
The legacy: The rebirth continues, according to Fiona Buckley, of Failte Ireland South West. "It raised the profile of Cork and that effect is still resounding today."
* Weimar 1999
The hope: An unlikely cultural Mecca, Weimar wanted to show its cultural beauty to a wider audience. It also wanted to use the year to perform something of an image change – the city is tagged with the legacy of a Second World War concentration camp.
The reality: The year was used to confront its past and celebrate the reunification of Germany.
The legacy: Aside from a brief boost in tourism the city has all but remained in obscurity.
* Lille 2004
The hope: To give identity to a town that became a transport hub when the Eurostar arrived in the 1990s.
The reality: A year-long programme of events which covered theatre, art and design, music, dance, cinema and literature.
The legacy: Lille has stepped out of the shadow of Paris and is now seen as a legitimate place to visit in its own right. The company that was in charge of the culture year is still going and is now planning "the city of tomorrow".
Source: The Independent
Our friends in the north
South African puppets, a light show with lighthouses, and lots and lots of trolls ... Alfred Hickling reports from Stavanger - Europe's other Capital of Culture
Wednesday January 16, 2008
It is a freezing January weekend and a crowd is staring upwards at the crowning moment of their city's inauguration as European Capital of Culture. But it's not Ringo drumming on the roof of Liverpool's St George's Hall - it's Norwegian stuntman Eskil Ronningsbakken cycling along a wire suspended over the tip of the icy fjord that bites into Stavanger harbour.
Ronningsbakken appears to lose his balance. The crowd gasp then cheer as he executes a confident handstand. It's a spectacular moment that seems to sum up Stavanger's bid to become European Capital of Culture for 2008: a feat of almost preposterous audacity.
The fact that Norway's fourth largest city was also celebrating over the weekend was, unsurprisingly, eclipsed in this country by coverage of Liverpool. But there is some reluctance on Liverpool's part to acknowledge that it is sharing its big year. Although the Stavanger 2008 website features a page wishing good luck to Merseyside, the Liverpool Culture Company's 200-page brochure does not make a single reference to its Scandinavian cousin.
Stavanger's programme can hardly be expected to compete with Liverpool's in terms of scale. Its budget is only £28.5m, just over a quarter of Liverpool's, and its population of 117,000 hardly competes with England's largest cities. Yet Stavanger has a history of punching above its weight: its imposing 12th-century cathedral was built when there were barely enough people to fill it, and offshore oil and gas in the 1960s transformed a small fishing community into a boom town.
Stavanger has always been a model of Norwegian self-sufficiency. Before oil, there were sardines; the often surreal graphic designs on the 19th-century sardine tin labels are arguably the city's most influential contribution to visual culture. Wages are high, unemployment practically nonexistent, and the chances of Stavanger's opening celebrations coinciding, as Liverpool's did, with teenage gang shootings in the suburbs are remote. According to the Global Peace Index, Norway is the safest country in the world.
"Stavanger has what many would consider to be the perfectly functioning society," says Mary Miller, the Scottish director of Stavanger's 2008 celebrations. "Yet that might equally be perceived as its problem. There's a danger that in a society where everyone is middle class, there will also be a certain insularity and a reticence to submit to new ideas."
The city has a highly regarded symphony orchestra and a productive regional theatre, but unlike Oslo, which hosts the annual Ibsen festival, and Bergen, the birthplace of Grieg, Stavanger has no major figure to celebrate. Instead, the 2008 programme sets out to challenge parochialism by emphasising international influence, although there are no major celebrities or big names adding glamour to the bill. "If you brought in the Berlin Philharmonic," says Miller, "people would say, 'But we have a perfectly good orchestra here.'"
Instead, Miller has devised a themed programme known as Open Port, based on a series of residencies from four companies that are nothing if not diverse: Tel Aviv's Inbal Pinto dance company, the Oskaras Korsunovas theatre company from Lithuania, the Belgian experimental opera group Transparant, and the Handspring Puppet workshop of South Africa. Each will create a new piece by working with local residents and artists.
Miller's decision to import cultural practitioners has not gone unchallenged. In 2005, graffiti around the city demanded "Ka ta ittepa?" (What happens afterwards?), the slogan of a pressure group of local artists who felt excluded. "The fact is," argues Miller, "there simply are not sufficient Norwegian artists to create the work required for a project of this scale or ambition on their own. We have to remember that we are supposed to be delivering a European capital of culture, not a Norwegian one."
Though the cultural landscape of Stavanger remains relatively small, the physical landscape is astounding, and many of the year's events belong to a unique genre that straddles dance, theatre - and extreme sport. Abseil specialists Bandaloop will hurl themselves off a rock face; 100 residents will take part in a light-and-snow spectacular, accessible only by ski lift; and Rogaland Theatre will colonise an entire island to present a site-specific work, Adventures in Landscape. Meanwhile, international artists have been challenged to turn the region's cluster of lighthouses into a linked light installation laced along the coast.
Naturally, this being Norway, there are trolls. In bygone years, the citizens of Stavanger rang the church bells to keep the elfin folk away, but at the opening celebrations on January 12 they were out in force: stalking around the cobbled streets of the old town centre before converging on Breiavatnet, a lake at the heart of the city, which became the scene of a magical pageant featuring burning boats floating across the water.
An estimated 60,000 people turned out for the festivities, which continued all night with concerts in churches and bars, concluding with a grand party at Tou Scene, a 19th-century former brewery that's the hub of Stavanger's alternative scene. Tou Scene is the home of the NuMusic Festival, a summer event that promotes art exhibitions alongside dance nights and visits from electronic music pioneers; two years ago the late Karlheinz Stockhausen was the guest of honour. A mini-festival last weekend included a set by Knut Jonas, alternately known as King Knut, a DJ and producer born in Stavanger and now living in London.
Stavanger is proud of its status as the largest wooden city in Europe, though its 18th- and 19th-century clapboard houses now share the city with the concrete blocks of oil company headquarters. By the end of 2008, Norwegian Wood, the inevitable name for the competition for new timber constructions, aims to have completed a dozen building projects in the region, including 400 living spaces, two bridges, a kindergarten and a mountain lodge. The €20m (£15m) invested in Norwegian Wood will be one visible legacy of the Capital of Culture long after the fireworks have faded. Though relatively modest, the project stands in striking comparison to Liverpool's failed plan to build a "fourth grace" on the waterfront.
Stavanger's targets may be smaller than Liverpool's, but by expecting less it could end up achieving rather more, or seeming to. "We are so much the little cousin of Liverpool that there are many areas where we cannot even hope to compete," says Grete Kvinnesland of the Norwegian Wood project. "But there is one aspect of culture in which we cannot be beaten. What is the one thing that everyone who comes to Stavanger remembers? Little wooden houses."
· Details: www.stavanger2008.no
Source: Guardian Unlimited
My town had been also once a culture-capital. It didn't change much, but there were a few more events and a few streets and houses became new made/ reconstructed. I guess the city had got money from any culture-boost-fund.
Well, maybe there will be a few more tourists on your streets and on the message boards too.
Last edited by Atany; 01-24-2008 at 01:54 AM.
Our cultural friends in the North
Apr 28 2008
by Phil Key, Liverpool Daily Post
Philip Key takes a stroll around Old Stavanger, to see what our title rival has to offer
IT WAS the European Capital of Culture as you might never have imagined it, with cobbled streets, wooden houses, a museum celebrating the sardine canning business and a booming oil industry.
What many in Liverpool may have not realised is that there are actually two European Capitals of Culture in 2008, Liverpool being one and Stavanger, in Norway, the other. This was Stavanger.
It is a very different world, as I discovered when I spent a few days in the Norwegian town, part of a larger region which has joined in the celebrations. It is also a European capital of culture which is not part of the European Union.
When I arrived, they were still talking about a weekend Capital of Culture event in March in which the audience had to ski or climb high into the mountains surrounding the town where a huge amphitheatre had been built of snow.
Around 90 performers – dancers, ski-acrobats, musicians and singers – had appeared in a multimedia spectacle with projections, lights and extreme snowboarders flying from the slopes. It had been a big success.
Like Liverpool, Stavanger started the year on the weekend of January 12 with a big opening ceremony in the streets with a parade of 2,000, an orchestra boat on wheels and – naturally – lots of fireworks. Again, like in Liverpool, the streets were packed with performers and watchers.
The artistic director for Stavanger is a Scottish woman, Mary Miller, who has managed to retain her job from day one.
But before I went to meet her to discover what was happening in their capital of culture, I wanted to take a look at Stavanager itself.
The town centre is the harbour, which comes right up to the town square overlooked by its cathedral.
It was on the waterfront that I made my base in the impressive Skagen Brygge Hotel, all wood on the outside, plush inside. From my window, I could observe the boats coming back from fjord trips and large ships involved in the oil business.
This mixture of tourism and industry is an intriguing one although the town centre’s emphasis seemed to be on the former with its small shops, malls and bars.
Life in Stavanger is certainly taken at a slower pace than Liverpool, and there is no part that looks overcrowded. Indeed, it is more like an English suburb than a big town.
But looks can be deceptive and the region actually has 26 municipalities, all of which were involved in that opening ceremony. So there are a lot of people around.
Alongside the harbour is a familiar-looking statue, just like one of those Iron Men created by Antony Gormley on the Crosby shore. In fact, this IS an Antony Gormley statue and, like the Iron Men, one of many.
One of my Stavanger guides, Per Morten Haar, was happy to explain that it was Stavanger which first had the Crosby statues where they were situated along the shoreline. Like the people of Liverpool, they rather liked them but they had to be uprooted for Crosby.
In their place, they got Gormley’s Broken Column, a series of 23 cast-iron figures that stretch from the Rogaland Art Museum to the harbour, taking in places like the courts and a churchyard on the way. There is even one in a private house.
THESE figures, like Liverpool’s, were based on a cast of Gormley’s own body but with an essential difference. In Liverpool, the naked figures have full anatomical equipment, while the Stavanger figures seem to be wearing bathing trunks.
At one stage during my stay, I took to the air in a helicopter to observe one of the year of culture events that can only be seen from the sky – apparently visitors arriving by aircraft could see it, but I must have been at the wrong window.
This was a collection of 600 white bales of hay that had been laid out in a field to spell out the first stanza of a poem by local poet and national hero Arne Garborg, whose statue stands in the town centre. The poem, Sunset Joy, was taken from an 1895 collection and deals with a fantastical elf land.
Alas, the installation was only temporary and disappeared as farmers used the hay, so there were just a few words left when I visited, and it is expected to have totally vanished by now.
The air trip – despite rain and wind – did give me an opportunity to see the land around, beaches, lighthouses, tiny islands, private houses (most, strangely enough, with a trampoline in the back garden) and the busy harbour itself.
Back at my hotel base, I was delighted to find a jazz band from Bergen playing in the bar, the hotel staging regular jazz sessions for what seemed to be a delighted audience. Stavanger was obviously not the sleepy town I at first imagined.
It has its old town, a place full of wooden buildings dating from the end of the 18th century delightfully situated just above the harbour, most of them incongruously sporting television aerials. It is an expensive part of town to live and, with strict restrictions on building, the result is that many look quite splendid, others a little ramshackle.
It was also here that I came across the Norwegian Canning Museum, celebrating one of the town’s biggest incomes at one time, sardines.
It was here that they were salted, smoked and beheaded before being put into those famous cans, and visitors can try packing plastic versions of the fish themselves.
There is no longer a sardine industry in the town and, during my visit, Norway’s last canning factory in Bergen was due to close.
Today, Stavanger is known for its fine dining and restaurants, and those I tried like Hall Tolov and Tango certainly put on a good show, often of the nouvelle cuisine variety, ie, small but delicious portions. Fish is certainly fresh, and the cod I had at Hall Tolov was the best I have ever eaten.
In a town of museums, the Norwegian Petrol Museum is certainly worth a visit, a modern place full of models of oil derricks, boats, panoramas, rock samples and even a 3-D film about oil exploration in the area.
Alongside they were building a Geopark, an innovative idea in which an activity park for youngsters was being created out of old machinery and parts donated by the oil industry. It was still under construction when I was there, but should be open by now.
Then it was time to meet Mary Miller, the artistic director of Stavanger’s Culture Year. Her office in the centre of town is just above an old bank.
As in Liverpool, there had been a few grumbles about the Culture Year, but generally people are enjoying it, she said. It is being marketed under the title Open Port.
“Because of the oil industry, Stavanger was already known as the energy capital of Europe,” she says. “Now that power is culture.”
Interestingly, she had been in touch in the early days with Robyn Archer, Liverpool’s first artistic director, and an old friend. “We had been planning a few joint ventures but, when Robyn went, it was not to be.”
But there is still a pretty full programme of events, with four artistic residencies at the heart of it with visits from a dance company from Israel, a theatre group from Lithuania, a music theatre company from Belgium and a puppet group from South Africa. Each is creating three productions during their stays.
There will be an open-air theatre project involving fairy tales, three peace events, a folk design exhibition and an art project in which the public is invited to help create various pieces of public art. There is also a lot of music, film and sport.
As with Liverpool, there is a desire to leave a legacy from the year and Miller was particularly keen on the Norwegian Wood project (nothing to do with The Beatles, she hastily pointed out).
As the town boasts the largest number of wooden buildings in Northern Europe, they thought they should have more, so architects were asked to design new ones.
By the end of the year, it is hoped there will be new houses, kindergartens, open-air stages and bridges. There will even be a new cabin at the region’s most inspirational tourist spot, Pulpit Rock, a rock which hovers high above a fjord.
It is a very different programme from Liverpool, perhaps a little more earnest but still with a sense of fun at times.
I went to the Rogaland Art Museum, where artist Shu Lea Cheang had created an installation titled Babylove. This features some giant cups and saucers, each with a giant baby inside. But the fun part comes when visitors are allowed to step into the cups and drive them around the gallery rather like dodgem cars. Crazy but highly entertaining.
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