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Amiens 2028, a cultural stream "Alter-Native"

Amiens Amiens Photo by Laurent Rousselin

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, Clermont – Ferrand, ReimsBastia – Corsica, Bourges, Saint Denis, today we discover Amiens.

Ranked among the greenest cities in France, the Amiens area is recognized for the quality of its green spaces. Often described as green and blue city, it offers a particularly rich natural environment for its inhabitants and visitors. Amiens is the first town in France in terms of inscription on the World Heritage List and is labelled “City of Art and History”, since 1992 (national distinction). The city’s flagship tourist attractions are the Cathedral “Notre-Dame d’Amiens”, the zoological park, the Hortillonnages (also known as floating gardens) and the House of Jules Verne. 

The city benefits from one of the highest student population densities in France: nearly 40% of the city’s inhabitants are under 25 years old. In 2018, the city hosted 29,536 students and 800 researchers in around 40 higher education institutions. As a result, the city recently distinguished itself as the first French city to be awarded the title of European Youth Capital for 2020. 

The interview is with the Amiens 2028 team

Why did your city decide to apply for the European capital of culture?
On the occasion of the ECOC bid, under the initiative of Amiens, the partners of the Somme valley intend to irrigate the whole territory with an unprecedented cultural flow. Building on their shared experience, the partners of the Somme Valley are placing culture at the centre of their concerns to make it an asset for attractiveness and dialogue with and between its inhabitants.  

The project’s development policy is based on a rich cultural life with dedicated facilities and many events. Heritage enhancement projects and artistic and cultural development actions shall now contribute to the economic and social development of a large territory. The project shall develop the means for a metamorphosis through a densification of cultural programmes and actions turned towards the inhabitants, combined with new European cooperation approaches. 

With a remarkable heritage, both natural and built, a diverse and dynamic network of cultural operators, and talented senior and emerging artists, Amiens and its partners of the Somme Valley are able to claim their rightful place in a vast region, and to consider heritage and culture as vectors of development. 

The application process will allow for experimenting with new approaches to culture and the heritage foundations of the area. It will be based on: what the territory currently is, and what it could become, in a realistic, shared and ambitious ideal. 

What do you think are the keywords of your application?
The Amiens-Vallée de Somme project aims to propose an “ALTER-NATIVE”, in other words «another»-«birth». The project is meant as the starting point for the territory’s transformation and an end to the deterministic forces of the past. The project wagers on transformation, laying claim to assets that will support the emergence of a sense of belonging in the local community.  

Our approach aims to promote the renewal of our relationship to others and to our environment, by capitalising on otherness and cultural diversity to affirm cultural rights and well-being in a preserved environment.  

Through this project, the territory will transform, as the approach envisaged allows to experiment within this «future transformation laboratory», whilst emphasising community inclusion. The envisaged approach should also be useful to other territories facing the same challenges in Europe to spread the ALTER-NATIVE. 

How are you involving citizens in this competition?
ALTER-NATIVE wishes to give everyone the opportunity to be an actor, to participate in joint reflections, to share ideas, to exchange and contribute to the development of actions in line with the challenges of the project.  

As part of the development of its candidacy, along an online citizens’ consultation that was launched to reach the inhabitants of the Somme Valley, ALTER-NATIVE has chosen to support projects of cultural professionals who are committed to engaging in a constructive dialogue with the community.  

To this end, two calls for projects entitled “PERSPECTIVES” have been launched since 2021. The calls focus on supporting projects with the capacity to invest all or part of the candidacy locale by drawing on its characteristics: connected to a wide variety of natural environments, including the Somme River, but also to the communities of the area.  

The selected projects allow the community to start engaging with the approach and to nurture the project. The ideas and proposals expressed will be discussed during the «Les Ateliers de la Fabrique 2028» workshops, in which all residents of Somme Valley will be invited to participate. 

What are the next steps on your journey?
At the end of the year, the team will devote its time to meetings with local actors (from the cultural and economic fields). Of course, this period will also be marked by the submission of the application at the French Ministry of Culture. Finally, the beginning of the year will be devoted to preparing for the oral presentation to the ECOC jury, which will take place during the last week of February. At the same time, a summary of the application, so called “Mini-bidbook”, will be produced and will become the privileged tool for presenting the project to as many people as possible and for organising participatory events. 

What are your thoughts on the European Capital of Culture competition?
Running for the ECOC title is an opportunity to revise the cultural policy of the area, building on the identity and the knowledge of our territory and devising on innovative cultural projects. This means a new impulse for a territory that is struggling to find its territorial anchorage, both at regional and European level. Amiens-Somme Valley wishes to position itself as a territory of experimentation to reverse the determinisms that assign rural areas punctuated by urban centres. Through the ALTER-NATIVE project, it aims to propose an innovative model, in collaboration with European cities sharing similar challenges and ECOC frontrunner cities, to suggest a new and inspiring model to the European Union. Accordingly, the ECOC competition requires to work together with pilot cities in cutting-edge areas such as innovation, environment and architecture to place culture as a lever of development to the benefit of the inhabitants. This ambition also represents a unique opportunity to revive a spirit of project sharing with European partners for the area’s cultural players. 

Culture shall eventually become a long-term territorial development lever for the area, turning the territory into an attractive region, identified by Europeans for is innovative hallmark and its welcoming environment to discover and to live in.  


Serafino Paternoster

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

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