The Journey to 2017: Aarhus, European Capital of Culture

Case Studies

gq-logoCreating a shared sense of identity among the diverse geographic and cultural communities of the European Union’s 500 million inhabitants requires skillful storytelling, drawing on stories that allow communities to have a share in the telling. Culture, in all its forms of expression, is central to the development of such stories, and this is one reason for the creation of European Capital of Culture as the EU’s flagship cultural policy. Being European Capital of Culture is about promoting collaboration between citizens, culture producers, government, and the private sector, through the appreciation of culture as a change agent that adds social and economic value. It is also about supporting cities and regions to become sources of economic growth and social cohesion for the long term.

In 2012, Aarhus, Denmark, made a successful bid for the title of European Capital of Culture 2017. A Foundation was established to manage the dual tasks of creating a spectacular, large-scale programme of projects and events to take place in 2017, and establishing a viable legacy to exist beyond the year itself. But it became apparent in early 2015 that, although there were high levels of  awareness throughout Aarhus and the central Jutland region that 2017 was going to be a special year, there was little understanding of exactly what was involved. Local media had begun to take a skeptical tone, encouraging a general sense of wondering what was going on, and local businesses—vital to the effective delivery of the ambitious 2017 plans—were only partially engaged.