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Rouen 2028, the city of a hundred spires

Rouen Rouen

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. Let's start with Rouen.

Rouen, situated on the banks of the River Seine, is Normandy’s vibrant, historic and cultural capital. Monet’s famous depictions of Rouen Cathedral have made this vast edifice many visitors’ favourite building in the city, but there are also many fine museums to explore, not to mention the Gros Horloge clock tower, France’s oldest inn La Couronne and the beautiful modern church dedicated to Joan of Arc.

Lined up in a row going from east to west through the centre of town is a string of tremendous churches – Saint-Ouen, Saint-Maclou, Notre Dame Cathedral and the modern church dedicated to Joan of Arc. It wasn’t for nothing that Victor Hugo famously described Rouen as ‘the city of a hundred spires’.

Rouen’s historic centre is also packed with tempting shops and restaurants, and great weekly markets. This being a university town, there is a thriving nightlife too. Rouen is now focusing its attention on the River Seine, with increasing initiatives to open up the quaysides to the public. Parks and gardens have recently been built along the left bank, while on the right bank, bars, restaurants and nightclubs line the quayside.

The inteview is with the team of Rouen 2028.

Why did your city decide to apply for the European capital of culture?

The city of Rouen is crossed by the Seine, one of the five major French rivers. The river raises several issues for the region: climate change and rising water levels, industries and risks, links between upstream and downstream, both geographically and over time. The territory is therefore facing major challenges. These challenges are issues for Rouen but also for the Seine valley. This is why the application area extends from Vernon/Giverny to Le Havre and Honfleur. These questions are also those of other territories in Europe: applying for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2028 means deciding to deal with these issues in a concrete way, not only here but also with our friend cities in Europe. We want to imagine artistic and cultural practices which contribute to the changes in society that need to take place.

What do you think are the keywords of your application?

Fundamentally Europe: our candidacy is a European trajectory. The mutual knowledge of peoples, their youth, their cultures, their societal issues are a necessity to preserve a Europe of Peace as Melina Mercouri underlined in the mid-80s. The Future Generations are essential: what kind of Europe in 2030 in 2050, what climate changes will have transformed our lives in 2030 in 2050, what place for the recognition of different cultural practices in 2030 in 2050? The narrative that must be written today as part of our candidacy must consider the future as an absolute priority.

Obviously, the transmission of knowledge: talking about possible futures, listening to the Seine and its ecological urgency requires us to work on the question of the transmission of knowledge: scientific knowledge but not only. The knowledge held by each inhabitant of the territory must be seen, recognised and shared, and this is what our application should be used for.

How are you involving citizens in this competition?

Since the summer 2021, many moments have been imagined to allow the territory's inhabitants to contribute to the project: we have collected their dreams, we have organised workshops to understand how they consider the Seine’s valley, creative meetings to imagine together artistic and cultural projects that make sense for our territory. But the work is not finished ! We have decided to open up spaces for dialogue with a wide range of actors to continue to build together artistic and cultural responses to the challenges facing the territory: universities, youth associations, fablab, etc.

What are the next steps on your journey?

The path towards the title of European Capital of Culture is a path that we want to open up to as many inhabitants and local and European stake holders as possible. We need to move forward step by step, bringing together people who previously had no opportunity to work together. Each step in this direction is useful to the territory, this trajectory is built for the benefit of its inhabitants. The title of European Capital of Culture for the year 2028 will be the recognition of this usefulness, of this capacity to use culture as a lever to bring Europe closer to Rouen, and Rouen and the Norman Seine Valley closer to Europe. There is still a lot to be done, but we collectively share those needs and desires.

What are your thoughts on the European Capital of Culture competition?

The competition for the title of European Capital of Culture is an opportunity to federate, to give a common horizon, a lever to converge, to bring people together on a territorial scale. That is its strength and that is its meaning. It is not so much a question of being better than other French cities, but rather of being the best to respond to the issues that cross our territory and Europe.

 

 

Serafino Paternoster

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

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