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A Journey to the capitals of tomorrow: Esch 2022

Skatepark Rumelange Skatepark Rumelange Photo by Emile Hengen

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. After Novi Sad 2022 today we talk about Esch-Sur-Alzette, European Capital of culture 2022.

Esch-sur-Alzette is a commune with town status in south-western Luxembourg. It is the country's second "city", and its second-most populous commune, with a population of 35,040 inhabitants, as of 2018. It lies in the south-west of the country, on the border with France and in the valley of the Alzette, which flows through the town. The town is usually referred to as just Esch; however, the full name distinguishes it from the village and commune of Esch-sur-Sûre which lies 45 kilometres further north. The country's capital, Luxembourg City, is roughly 15 km to the north-east.

In 2022, together with 10 Pro-Sud municipalities, and 8 municipalities in France, in the Communautée de Communes Pays Haut Val l’Alzette (CCPHVA), Esch-Alzette will be European Capital of Culture.

Esch2022 will share this title with Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania and Novi Sad, the second largest city in Serbia, which will be partner cities for Esch2022.

Under the slogan Remix Culture and its four sub-sections Remix Art, Remix Europe, Remix Nature and Remix Yourself, Esch2022 aims to create synergies, guarantee sustainable development and, most importantly, ensure that the general public gets actively involved.

The theme of the program tells the story of an industrial region in the middle of Europe, its development and that of its society. It's about identity and the European idea.

The official opening ceremony will take place on february 2022 (read here).

The interview is with Nancy Braun, General Director Esch2022.

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

To understand the city‘s ambition to be the European Capital of Culture we have to take a short journey into the history of the southern region of Luxembourg and eastern France. Towards the end of the 19th century the cross-border region called „Red Rock“ (in French the “Terres Rouges”) started to extract natural resources at an industrial scale which introduced a new industrial age. Workers from all around Europe immigrated towards Luxembourg and soon the city of Esch-Alzette and the surrounding communes became a multi-cultural melting pot. Of course, if we look towards Belgium, Germany or France and their history we observe a similar industrial heritage. However, what makes Esch-Alzette and the Red Rock region unique is that the cradle of the country's industrial wealth is in a cosmopolitan border region.

In 1997 the last oven went off the grid, but the city had already reinvented itself away from an industrial, towards a knowledge society. Today Esch-Alzette is known for innovation, science and technology. The university districts with its unique research facilities have replaced the traditional steel industry and allow to another generation to shape their future. A city that continuously reinvented itself to become yet again the backbone of a modern economy and a thieving multicultural community deserves in our opinion to become the European Capital of Culture.

What changes are expected for the reference community?

The ambition through Esch2022 is to increase through culture the sense of belonging, across borders, to the Minett region. Esch2022 allows everyone to speak one language as culture helps to (re-) discover a sense of community. The projects want to offer a space of freedom and recreation that encourages to bring new perspectives to our lives in order to strengthen this sense of common identity and trust.

We also hope to increase awareness about the region of Esch2022 to leverage the potential of tourism, research, technology and innovation. Esch2022 has been a region of culture already, and now culture is used as a motor to develop the region further. Besides underlining our cultural offer, we want to use this opportunity to use culture as a fuel to put the spotlight on the numerous research facilities, business hubs and last but not least on the tourist destinations our region has to offer.

What are the three keywords of your cultural program?

Under the slogan Remix Culture and its four sub-sections Remix Art, Remix Europe, Remix Nature and Remix Yourself, Esch2022 aims to create synergies, guarantee sustainable development and, most importantly, ensure that the general public gets actively involved. Under the slogan Remix Future the projects put into perspective both past and present with the aim to create a strong foundation for a more sustainable, collective, socially responsible future.

A very important aspect during Esch2022 and beyond will be theme of digitalisation and digital arts. Digital transformation is generating a fierce debate about its societal impact. As digitalisation disrupts society in a profound way we observe that concern is growing about a digitalised era as it is strongly affecting our way of life in fields such as education, health, jobs, personal wellbeing, resource efficiency and security… Esch2022 gives the opportunity to open a dialogue about this digital transformation, that is for example reflected in exhibitions that we develop and host together with international partners such as the ZKM Karlsruhe, Ars Electronica Linz and the HeK Basel, while involving the people too through participative formats.

What are the main citizen involvement activities?

The project Esch2022 takes place in a very cosmopolitan region with a strong multicultural dimension. On a local level, Esch2022’s watchwords are: Provide access. Empower the population. Inspire confidence. Change perspectives. Turn to innovation. Esch2022 will be a project by people for people. The whole program lives of participation as we believe that providing access to culture to everyone is the only way to create engagement and encourage a sustainable change. We want everyone to be part of Esch2022 to help shaping the future of the region.

What do you want to remain after the capital year?

The people that live in the Esch2022 region and guests should be proud to live in their homelands and visitors should add the region to their bucket list. The long-term cultural strategy aims to integrate citizens as well as political and economic actors from the region. Esch2022 wants to reduce fears of contact and mental barriers, making culture accessible to everyone, moving and involving residents and visitors. Our mission is to show that it is possible to live together in harmony.



Serafino Paternoster

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

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