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A Journey to the capitals of tomorrow: Timisoara 2023

Timisoara Timisoara Photo by Pixabay

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, Esch2022, Kaunas2022 , Veszprem2023 and 2023 Elefsina today we talk about Timisoara, European Capital of culture 2023.

Timişoara, a city in western Romania, and was designated European Capital of Culture 2021 in Romania on 25th October 2016 on the basis of the panel’s selection report.

Timisoara will hold the European Capital of Culture title in 2023 after the European Parliament's CULT committee backed the proposed extension of 2020 European Capitals of Culture programs to next year. The decision was taken because of the delays caused by the pandemic.

Situated near the borders with Hungary and Serbia, Timisoara, the capital city of the Banat region, is preparing to become the European Capital of Culture in 2023.

The theme of Light has been spotted as the central idea of transforming the city through culture and participation. Its meaning goes back to the city’s history, back in 1884, when Timisoara was the first city on continental Europe to have electric street lightening. Then, during the Enlightenment period, the city has witnessed outstanding economic, cultural and social development. Light is also about the civic energy of its people as in 1989 the sparks of Revolution against the communist totalitarian regime were first ignited in Romania, in Timisoara. Therefore, the slogan Shine your Light – Light Up Your City is about their values to spread in Europe for an open minded, visionary attitude.

The interview is with Simona Neumann, CEO Timisoara 2023-European Capital of Culture

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

Timisoara has decided to be a European Capital of Culture in order to challenge the crises of values shared by all Europeans. The current situation requires the restoration of the open dialogue between policy makers and citizens between institutions and citizens in order to build a Europe we are all dreaming about. Civic participation in the life of the city is therefore of utmost importance. We propose –through the Cultural Programme of the ECoC year- to move the civic energy of the city. Starting from the powerful metaphor of light we wish to “export” the values we believe in to other cities in Europe, in order to stimulate an open, visionary attitude among the citizens. The slogan of our ECoC is Shine your light! Light up your city! The preparation for the ECOC year is the opportunity for the longterm development of the city having Culture at its center.

What changes are expected for the reference community?

The concept of the project is inspired by Light and we propose, through our cultural programme a journey through the dark and bright spaces of the city fuelled by its intercultural and multicultural character, its entrepreneurial skills of the citizens and the civic spirit of the community. The main legacy of the project are the people, their engagement in the co-creation of the cultural programme, their participation in the democratic process and civic attitude. Therefore the changes expected for the reference community are a more engaged community in the city’s life, new places converted for culture, better understanding of current European topics and debates, more connections among local cultural, educational and civic actors and with European partners. These changes won’t come fast, they are a process to be seen and sized in years after the ECoC year and which stated already during the candidacy process.

What are the three keywords of your cultural program?

Through our Cultural Programme proposed for the ECoC year we imagine a challenging Journey from loneliness to togetherness, from light to darkness, across three Territories: People, Places and Connections. The key words would be: engagement, participation and civism through culture.

 What are the main citizen involvement activities?

The cultural programme is engaging citizens in multiple forms such as:

- co-creation and coproduction activities through: contemporary theatre and story-telling : Remix ID, Days and Nights, Dante 21; immersive theatre, intervention in public spaces through interdisciplinary activities such as theater, dance, film, music and landscape art, sports, outdoor pop-up shows: In: v z b l, IMPULSE, City Voices, Consulart, BEGA!, KIDS 21, SPORTS 21; research and collection of stories from citizens followed by the promotion of the project or event : ReMIND Mapping, Memoriile cetații / Memories of the City, Moving Fireplaces; collaborative programming : Punct Termic, Breathing Spaces.

- dialogues and policy making : CiviCultura

- citizens as co-curator

- volunteering in culture: welcoming the audience, security measures, communication and dissemination of the Cultural Programme, logistics and production, online volunteering, training programmes.

- education and experiment : MultipleXity, Light Search, Energy Incubators.

What do you want to remain after the capital year?

We hope to leave a meaningful contribution to European cultural development and also a milestone in the modern history of Timisoara and Romania. The investment in culture means investment in people, in better quality of life, in a more prosperous city in Europe. Beyond a few investments in improving the cultural infrastructure a new one – MultipleXity – the Centre for Art, Technology and Innovation – will be aimed to the independent cultural, creative, artistic and technological sector in an innovative hub for the region and Europe, to be developed in year after the ECoC year. The Light Festivals has started already in the preparation process (in 2028 and 2019) will remain as milestone events in the cultural life of the city and some other key projects already started. But most importantly there will stand the soft legacy, that is a more competitive cultural and creative scene  with international partners and the capacity to engage European networks, maybe stronger legal solutions, transparent financing in the cultural sector. Citizens will be empowered to reclaim neglected neighborhoods. Last but not least, our capacity building programme called Power Station will remain an important resource center for the cultural sector and a main point for international exchanges between artists, educators and activists ensuring a pool for cultural managers and leaders.

Serafino Paternoster

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