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A Journey to the capitals of tomorrow: Novi Sad 2022

Zezelj Bridge Zezelj Bridge photo by V.Velickovic

We asked managers of the European capitals of culture from 2022 to 2025, five same questions to understand their expectations in a clear and concise way. Each interview is preceded by a fact sheet on that European capital of culture. The format is the same for all. At the end of the series of interviews we will try to make a synthesis of objectives, trends, expectations by the ecocs. Today we talk about Novi Sad, European Capital of culture 2022.

At the end of last year, on 23 December to be exact, a formal decision was made by the Europe­an Parliament and Council, on postponing the title-year to 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic. This decision came into force on 1 January 2021, meaning Novi Sad will now be the European Capital of Culture in 2022, together with Kaunas (Lithuania) and Esch (Luxembourg).

Novi Sad is one of the first cities outside the EU to be appointed European Capital of Culture and thus it became one of 60 cities that hold this prestigious title and that foster richness of diversity and interculturality. The main idea of the programme narrative ‘For New Bridges’ is becoming more visible every day, with the goal to leave firm legacies that improve cultural image of the city: new programmes, new processes, engaged people (citizens, cultural institutions, associations, organ­isations, artists) and lastly new places for culture. Therefore, the vision of the project is: ‘The beginning of new. Now!’.

The official opening ceremony will take place on 13 January 2022.

The inteview is with Nemanja Milenković, CEO Novi Sad 2022.

Why did the city decide to be the European capital of culture?

Novi Sad is the smallest city on the Danube, but with the biggest number of bridges. There is a total of 11 bridges, eight under the Danube and three over the river. This is exactly the presentation of the turbulent and dynamic history of Novi Sad, in which these bridges played an important role. Our slogan ‘4 New Bridges’ arises from this identity indicating the indestructible bridges, in which people and processes create spaces and programmes, permanent legacies. The slogan reflects the motive of Novi Sad’s candidacy for the European Capital of Culture title.

What changes are expected for the reference community?

Everything visible is created by something invisible. The base and core of the building method is strengthening people and processes and just like real bridges’ piles, they are not seen, they are under the river, but they are the piles holding the bridge. Our spaces and programmes, which are already forever changing our city and its cultural image, are already visible in the preparation years, mostly through the programme arches Kaleidoscope of Culture and Doček, which are envisaged as the future legacies.

What are the three keywords of your cultural program?

The ’For New Bridges’ slogan portrays values that Novi Sad and its identity share with all Europeans. We represent these values through the names of the bridges – Freedom, Hope, Love and Rainbow, so we actually have four words that describe the mission and the idea of the whole programme.

What are the main citizen involvement activities?

When it comes to including citizens in the whole European Capital of Culture project, that’s where we come back to our story about the slogan. The audience’s participation, i.e. their needs and wishes, are guiding us throughout the process of creating programmes and spaces. There are a lot of programmes with the citizens being the creators of both content and spaces. In this manner, or to express myself in the spirit of the project vision, we connect two shores, people and programmes, shores that depend on one another and that could not exist without that bridge. Without the bridge, these shores could not function effectively and create the general image of Novi Sad as the capital of culture.

What do you wish to remain after the capital year?

Strong people and strong processes. I wish to believe Novi Sad will set new standards in respecting the heritage of previous generations in the time to come. Looking at this through the spaces that we made, it is already an incredible thing that we have done for protecting and developing five cultural hubs in the city. There is a network of eight cultural stations that Novi Sad is unique for in this part of Europe and that, in record time, not only restored dilapidated spaces but were also put in use of culture, equally including both citizens and artists in creating new toponyms of the city. Finally, Novi Sad got the most comprehensive strategy for the development of city’s culture. The developing strategy is defined until 2026, but it already lives at full capacity.

Serafino Paternoster

Ecocnews Founder, Journalist, repentant jazz guitarist, music critic and film lover.

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