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Budějovice 2028, Care, People and Environment

Petr Wohlgemuth during Budějovický Majáles session, 2021 (abandoned quarry, Petr Wohlgemuth during Budějovický Majáles session, 2021 (abandoned quarry, photo by Kuba Zeman)

EcocNews continues the journey among the cities that are candidates for European capital of culture for 2028 in the Czech Republic. After Broumov, Brno and Liberec, today we discover the city of Budweis (České Budějovice). In 2028 it will be the third time that the Czech Republic will have a European Capital of Culture after Prague in 2000 and Plsen in 2015.

České Budějovice (93,000 inhabitants) is the capital city of South Bohemia in the southern Czech Republic.

This ancient royal town with a well-preserved historical centre is not only the county town of the Czech south, but also the home city of honest Czech beer, which has been brewed here since the 13th century, and good food to go with it. In addition to the historical monuments, České Budějovice offers many sports-leisure activities.

The historic centre of České Budějovice is dominated by a large square, lined with arcades of original houses and a beautiful Baroque town hall. In the very centre of the square towers the Baroque Samson Fountain. Also worth a visit is the Black Tower, with the best view of the city centre. Next to the tower is the St Nicholas Cathedral, with a remarkable interior.  On the nearby Piarist square you will find the interesting Gothic building of the Solnice [salt-house] and the Dominican monastery with interesting Gothic decorations.

The interview is with the team of Budweis.

Why did your city decide to apply for the European capital of culture?
Budweis. If cities had nicknames, our city would be called Contentment. Nothing defines the city and its people better than this state of satisfaction. No wonder: Budweis is a beautiful, peaceful city at a confluence of two rivers, surrounded by scenic (agri)cultural landscape. It has a great potential for sustainable urban and rural development. Its smart green city ambitions are laid out in the city development strategy, as well as naturally rooted in the city landscape and the region’s natural environment, bounded by several protected natural areas including the Bohemian Forest national park. Ties with the natural environment are further strengthened by the presence of the University of South Bohemia and the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences. There is so much our city and region can offer to Europe - but also so many challenges we can accept. To re-think the status-quo of the city and look to the future.

The world order is changing. We can hardly predict what the next year will be like. Yet we can see the city is already transforming, as people's needs and values are changing in these turbulent times. The urgency for defining the vision of the city comes from our local government, as well as from our people. The candidacy has helped to create a synergy between them. All together, we can imagine the new reality that we will live in. The new vision for Budweis.

What do you think are the keywords of your application?
It is CARE. PEOPLE and ENVIRONMENT. But also CHANGE. And MOTHER(S). And there is one more word that we would like to keep in secret for a few more weeks.

How are you involving citizens in this competition?
As we strongly believe in participatory approach, we have decided to host one of our flagship projects already in the first round. Kul.turista project introduces the city districts and cities in the region from the perspective of the local inhabitants. This urban festival was travelling through the city for 7 months. At a “coffee for a story” time, people stopped by and talked with us about their lives, dreams, issues in the city – and about the candidacy. Interactive map of Europe helped us understand how people relate to EU countries. Seven urbanistic workshops in public spaces  helped us define the potential of different neighbourhoods with locals. The programme was organised by schools, NGOs, local businesses, artists, sports and hobby clubs, or churches. We held a workshop on community engagement and prepared a how-to manual on community activities. Overall more than 3500 fellow inhabitants participated in the project and all of them gave us great insights on life in the city. And truly co-created the Bid.

What are the next steps on your journey?
We are currently preparing for the presentation of the Bid Book to the panel and also preparing for the selection phase. We are preparing the re-organisation of Budweis 2028 association for the selection phase as the city and region would become founding members of it. We have also started with preparation of the timeline and projects we would like to host in the selection phase as well as all the necessary steps we need to take our Bid even further, including outreach and capacity building activities. And we are about to plan the next edition of the Kul.turista project that should spread to the region in the next phase!

What are your thoughts on the European Capital of Culture competition?
Thanks to the preselection phase we, people from a relatively small provincial city, had a chance to enter an extremely creative, empowering and nourishing debate on the future of Europe. We had a chance to open a dialogue with our Czech fellow candidates, but also most of the candidate cities in France and also Portuguese cities in the final selection phase. We've been in touch with extraordinary teams from around Europe to discuss the needs, challenges and visions we share. Whether we are from the Western, Central or Eastern Europe, we all have to deal with the same global challenges and their impacts on the local level. No matter what is our past, the future is common. Thanks to such a credible and respected label of the ECoC, we have support and empowerment to enter into a creative and inspiring family of the cities that have the power to progressive change.

The candidacy has brought us together at just the right moment. The preparation period unlocked so much creativity, activisation, responsibility and enthusiasm among Budweisers. The Budweis 2028 bid is the result of our universal passion for the enthusiastic co-creation process, our deep trust in the power of the participative approach, strong belief in shared values, but also responsibility for the inherited environment and its uncertain future. We are proud to say that Budweis candidacy is both a city strategic development goal, and a grassroots project.   

Serafino Paternoster

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

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