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A Journey to the capitals of tomorrow: Bodø 2024

A Journey to the capitals of tomorrow: Bodø 2024 Photo by Dan Mariner

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 NoviSad2022, Esch2022, Kaunas2022 , Veszprem2023, Eleusis2023, Timisoara2023, and Tartu2024, today we talk about Bodø, European capital of culture 2024

After Bergen 1999 and Stavanger 2008 Bodø will be Norway's third European capital of culture and will become the first European Capital of Culture north of the Arctic Circle.

Bodø has more than 52.000 inhabitants. The city is located at 67°17’N. Bodø is the regional capital of Nordland county and is the second largest city in the northern part of Norway, after Tromsø in Troms county.

Nordland consists of thriving towns and cities, deep fjords, high mountains and wild nature. The County is devided into five different regions, each with its distinctive character, institutions and the unique connection to Europe. Nordland is a story about a region where the nature – the mountains and the fjords – sets the premises, and why the coastal culture is so important to they.

Nordland is part of Sapmi, the Sami area that stretches between Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Five endangered Sami languages are spoken within Nordland’s borders. The sami connections east-west across the borders, following the pastures and resources, is a core element of their history, as is the trade routes north-south between their coast and Europe.

Bodø and Nordland have worked since 2015 to become the European Capital of Culture 2024. Following the EU parliament’s 2017 approval of Bodø as an applicant city, the work process gained speed. In October 2018, a pre-qualification application was submitted to the EU. The following November brought the message that Bodø was selected as one out of three pre-qualified applicant cities, outside the EU, for the ECoC 2024 competition. The main application was submitted to the EU on the 22th of August 2019. On the 25th of September 2019 it was announced that Bodø will be European Capital of Culture 2024. The Chair of the EU’s cultural expert jury, Jiri Suchanek, made the official announcement at the House of European History in Brussels.

Bodø’s bid is titled ARCTICulation, a title developed from the terms arctic, art, culture and communication. The bidding programme has three main themes.

The Art Of Nature” is about exploring art in – or from – an arctic perspective. Building on the idea of being one with nature and the environment, as opposed to hiding from it. They are programming projects and events that bring art into the nature, and vice versa. They want to articulate their responsibility of the nature they are part of.

Fish And Ships” is about their history, and through the programme they are taking aim at communicating both the story of living in Nordland, and how their story is still living all around us today – their living (hi)story. The story of stockfish trade that has made such an important contribution to the development of their nation, and how it’s still a living part of their everyday life when the fishing boats and factory trawlers dock right in the Bodø city centre. It also looks at and shares with a number of European partners their Cold War history and how it has impacted on their collective consciousness and confidence.

Transition” is highlighting connections with city development and capacity building projects. The towns and centres of Nordland have adapted to change through history, surviving the rise and fall of the industrial era, becoming modern societies. In the years coming they will again be challenged, as they are developing a smart, sustainable region.

Transition also relates to their ambition to build on and develop a number of regional festivals and events. Currently they are good, but they can be better. By investing in their development between now and 2024, they can move from good to great in 2024. Great too as a long-term legacy of quality international festivals which continue to work with European partners and draw larger and more diverse audiences.

The interview is with  Henrik Sand Dagfinrud, Head of Programming, Bodø2024

Why did the city decide to be the European capital of culture?
We love to bring people together. In our Arctic landscape, we must facilitate collaboration without boundaries. Culture is a unique arena for cultivating identity, a sense of belonging and critical thinking. Our dream is to create meeting places that will attract artists and cultural operators from all over Europe, so we can learn from them, and so they can bring back the best of Bodø and Nordland back home with them. 

Status as ECoC is also an opportunity to spark enthusiasm and interest through experiences for curious children and teenagers, to recruit people to the cultural scene, and to create a sense of belonging and community. Bodø and Nordland (our county) are in a phase of great change, dealing with challenges related to population growth and age demographics. Too many young people who leave to get an education do not return to Nordland. 

These important factors create the foundation for our application to become European Capital of Culture in 2024. 

What changes are expected for the reference community?
Our strategic objective number one is to 'change the image of Nordland'. Hence one of our main themes is 'transition'. From a cold war target to a cool European cultural hub. Put simply: we want Bodø and Nordland to become a more attractive and exciting place to visit, study, work and live in.

Other objectives for Bodø2024 include outreach (addressing issues like diversity, mental health and isolation); capacity building and widening the production base for culture locally (including more producing, co-producing and cross-working); making better use of unusual spaces; and making our cultural offer more international. We have so much to learn from our European partners and colleagues, and much to contribute ourselves! We are really looking forward to being part of all these cultural exchanges that are the essence of what the ECoC scheme is all about.

What are the three keywords of your cultural program?
Young people (our main target group, they will be at the centre of everything we do) 
Sustainability (our aim is to make Bodø2024 the most sustainable ECoC ever - a big challenge, but one we will embrace fully)
Freedom of expression. We have a long tradition for this in Norway, but freedom of expression should never be taken for granted, as we are all too often reminded.

What are the main citizen involvement activities?
Citizen participation will be at the core of everything we do - it is essential for the sustainability of our project that local people are involved all the way, so that all we have built up in the run-up to 2024 can live on long after that date. Bodø 2024 is also tied to a big city development project (New City New Airport, here), where community involvement will be crucial. We will also have a strong focus on capacity building, outreach and cooperation across sectors, which will permeate everything we do. And we will involve locals in decision-making processes at all levels - we will even have a youth council. As for the programme itself... There are plenty of exciting examples, from our feeding Europe project, led by local food producers and local chefs, to utopia workshops involving residents from all walks of life. We will also have a school book project encouraging pupils across Nordland to share their European stories. A mentor programme for talented young musicians. A show built on, and celebrating, the various ethnic backgrounds of local children. The list goes on... So watch this space.

What do you want to remain after the capital year?
Oh, so much! Many of the projects we are starting now will live on well after 2024. Some infrastructure, like the airport shelters we plan to convert into creative hubs, will remain. And we also hope to have generated new interest in Sami culture, which is an important part of our bid. But beyond that... we hope to have gained a new energy. Learnt from new experiences. Created a new network. Seen new opportunities. Bodø 2024 is only the beginning. We hope our status as ECoC will also give us a new confidence. New dreams. And new optimism for the future.



Serafino Paternoster

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

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