EUKN interview with Mr Oeds Westerhof
5 Jun 2018
In 2018, Leeuwarden-Friesland celebrates its European Capital of Culture year by hosting a number of events, festivals, shows, performances and concerts. The events take place both within the city and on the surroundings. This emphasizes the strong link between city and the countryside and highlights Friesland's regional identity as a whole.
EUKN: What is the biggest benefit/highlight for the city being the ECoC2018 (European Capital of Culture 2018) so far?
OW: That people feel proud on their city. Lokal hymn was: it het nooit wat weest, t sal nooit wat wurde, ast in Leeuwarden geboren bist, kinst it wel skudde. (it never was something, it will never be something, if you were born in Leeuwarden, you are lost anyhow). That sentiment is gone.
EUKN: What is the main target audience? What is the proportion of English events during the ECoC2018?
OW: We work with several target groups, one is not more important than the other, but one group is definitely larger than the other. For our community arts programme, the inhabitants of the cities, especially in the more challenging areas, are the main target group. For our land art and exhibitions programme, the national and international audience is more important. Within the international audience, most people come from Germany. Publicity material and website are published in Friesian, Dutch, German and English. Exhibitions are in Dutch and English. Music and dance programmes of the main programme are published in Dutch and English. Theatre program is partly in English (international programme), partly in Dutch/Friesian, partly non-lingual. For some – but definitely not all – theatre shows subtitles or textbooks in English are available.
EUKN: The ECoC2018 also organises events elsewhere in Friesland: is it a choice to organise events in other parts of the region? If so, for what purpose?
OW: Yes. About 50% of our programme is outside the city. Leeuwarden is Capital of the province of Friesland. Friesland has a strong regional identity. It makes sense to present city and province as a whole. Besides that, our programme is strongly focussing on the relationship between city and countryside. We address many issues that have to do with sustainability.
EUKN: What do you think will be the long-term benefit of ECoC2018 for Leeuwarden?
OW: The turnover from a city with problems to a challenging city where it is possible to make the difference, will be the most important benefit. That benefit will be expressed in social, economical and ecological innovation and success.
EUKN: How do you plan to measure the impact of the ECoC2018? (do you already have baseline data, and do you plan to measure the post-event data on touristic perception, citizen participation, etc.?)
OW: We do an independent evaluation on the 32 goals of our original plan. We started with a 0-measurement the year after we won the title. After that we measured on the same goals twice. In 2019 the third and final measurement takes place.
EUKN: What is the impact of the ECoC2018 on urban development in Leeuwarden?
OW: The city centre had and important upgrade, with as a result an attractive place to be; the meeting point for the region.
EUKN: Are there any concrete projects concerning urban transformation/revitalization/renewal in the city/region taking place already, as part of the ECoC2018?
OW: Yes: station square, renewal of former prison, upgrade square Oldehoofster Kerkhof.
EUKN: Do you think being the ECoC2018 can be an opportunity to encourage actors of the city (and other cities) to work closer together? Has it brought any form of synergies between them?
OW: Very much. Being Capital of Culture, forces you to cooperate, not only in the cultural scene, but also in other fields (companies, education, social work, care, etc).
EUKN: In what way Leeuwarden distinguishes itself from other capitals of culture?
OW: We are the most bottom up organised Capital of Culture. More than 30.000 people are actively participating in organising the event. The programme was a result of bottom up movement.
EUKN: How does the ECoC2018 role contribute to the long-term strategy of the city?
OW: As a catalyst for change in the economical, social and ecological policy.
EUKN: How do you see Leeuwarden position itself in regard to the national (Agenda Stand) and international urban agendas (New Urban Agenda, Urban Agenda for the EU)?
OW: Not very much yet
EUKN: If you could describe Leeuwarden (and the region Friesland) in three words, what would these be?
OW: Bottom-Up Care for the Commons