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Reims 2028, the city of the kings

Reims Reims

In France, many cities have decided to participate in the competition to become the European Capital of Culture in 2028 together with a city in the Czech Republic. With EcocNews also for 2028 we discover which are some of the candidate cities and how they are moving to involve citizens and to change the destiny of their cities. Also in this circumstance we asked all the French candidate cities the same questions.

After Rouen, Montpellier and Clermont – Ferrand today we discover Reims.

Reims is a city in northeastern France's Grand Est region. It's the unofficial capital of the Champagne wine-growing region, and many of the champagne houses headquartered there offer tastings and cellar tours. For more than 1,000 years, French kings were crowned at its Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims. This grand cathedral is known for its stained-glass windows and Gothic carved portals, including the Smiling Angel.

Reims, a town of art and history, has many unmissable sites listed by UNESCO World Heritage:

The Notre-Dame cathedral and its remarkable Chagall stained glass windows, The Palais du Tau, a museum hosting the cathedral's works, The Basilica of Saint-Remi that houses the Holy Ampulla and the tomb of Saint-Remi, The Abbey of Saint-Remi Museum, dedicated to the bishop who baptised Clovis. And, since 2015, the Colline Saint Nicaise de Reims has also been a UNESCO World Heritage Site listed as part of the Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars.

The interview is with the team of Reims 2028

Why did your city decide to apply for the European capital of culture?
Reims is known for its prestigious champagne, its exceptional cellars and chalk pits, and its four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the majestic Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral and Saint-Remi Abbey, two heritage symbols of the history of the Kings of France in the city. However, to truly understand Reims, one must go beyond this sumptuous showcase and grasp its contrasts. Reims is a city divided between its center and its neighborhoods made up of disparate communities and its 37.4% of social housing (the largest outside of the Île-de-France).

The city oscillates between its urban character and its 142 surrounding rural communities (one of the largest inter-communities in France), between the cultivation of vines and the agricultural cultivation of sugar beets; between its image of luxury and the reality of its social and societal divide. This European Capital of Culture project will help to reconcile the inhabitants of the city center, the neighborhoods, the villages, the surrounding towns, etc., in order to find a common definition of the territory's identity for today and tomorrow, on a local, European and international scale.

Moreover, since the Celtic period and then during antiquity, Reims has been a civilizational crossroads at the crossroads of Europe. In the Middle Ages, it was one of the most important European universities where many intellectuals met. Following the Great War, all Europeans mobilized to rebuild this martyred city, 90% destroyed, bombed almost continuously between 1914 and 1918.

Portuguese, Italian and Polish communities came together to rebuild what is today one of the most beautiful art-deco cities in Europe. Reims is also the witness of the Franco-German reconciliation, since it was in Reims that the surrender was signed on May 7, 1945, which put an end to the Second World War, a founding act of Europe. Today, Reims is still a major international student city and a breeding ground for European cultures.

This city, which has developed and rebuilt itself, both materially and psychologically, thanks to European exchanges and mutual aid between communities, has a story to tell Europe in the current geopolitical context of the war in Ukraine.

What do you think are the keywords of your application?
Blending is our working theme. In reference to the typical Champagne know-how, of course: making a good champagne means finding the perfect blend between different ingredients and ensuring its consistency. This ability to produce in balance and constancy is put at the service of the construction of our European capital of culture. We are assembling artistic disciplines and practices, cultures, communities, urban and rural areas... This theme also allows us to deal with questions of accessibility and rights to culture so that everyone, at all levels, will eventually be involved in this great assembly game.

How are you involving citizens in this competition?
The Reims 2028 bid is entirely designed for and with the residents. The first step in the assembly process: the Reims 2028 logo was created by high school students during workshops led by a designer from the Reims School of Art and Design. Reims 2028 was addressed to these young people so that they could imagine their European capital of culture, the one that they will live and make live in 2028. Among the thirty or so proposals, two logos were selected to be submitted to the popular vote of the inhabitants by digital means, of course, but also to the "invisible" populations: in prisons, retirement homes, schools, hospitals, at the soccer stadium, in the street...

The association has also set up 14 Citizen's Consultation Houses, which today bring together about 300 people, on different themes, to create projects for the Capital using methods inspired by the social and solidarity economy. More than 150 projects have now been created through this design thinking mechanism.

At the same time, the Reims 2028 team has imagined architectural gestures, a sort of contemporary "folly", with students from the School of Art and Design and the help of local entrepreneurs and architects, reflecting the disparity of the territory, in order to reach out to the inhabitants and encourage them to create projects for their European Capital of Culture. A program of activities designed with the inhabitants and the network of local associations will be deployed in our nine travelling huts, installed in the city's districts, in rural areas and within our network of partner cities.

What are the next steps on your journey?
At the beginning of the school year, the cultural structures will hand in their final works realized in the framework of the call for projects led by Reims 2028. We can't wait to show them off!

In December, the first construction site hut, a real work of art that enhances the identity of the Châtillons district, based on the theme of travel, will occupy the Argonauts square in the city. In December we will also hand over our first Bid Book, a document we have been working on this summer. 

What are your thoughts on the European Capital of Culture competition?
A European Capital of Culture project is a project that goes beyond us: it is the experience of questioning a city's identity, its capacities, the welcome and inclusion of its inhabitants, its artists, its accessibility, its assets, its weaknesses... Whatever the result of this European competition, the dynamic that has been set in motion will have repercussions beyond the year 2028. Of course, we are doing everything to be selected and, at this stage of the competition, we are more motivated than ever, but the process of building the Capital is already very instructive. It has allowed us to meet with residents, elected officials, entrepreneurs, artists, farmers ... to multiply exchanges with our partner and twin cities in Europe and around the world. This dialogue, initiated within the framework of the candidacy, will continue to be fed outside the project and it is in this way that we will have succeeded in our work of assembling. 


Serafino Paternoster

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

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