First Workshop Takes Place For Brno’s Bid To Become European Capital of Culture
Friday April 26th saw various figures from Brno’s cultural life gather in Clubwash for an opening discussion about the city’s bid to become European Capital of Culture, led by Mattijs Maussen, the chief adviser on the project. Photo: Mattijs Maussen (on the left) at Industra. / Credit: Zdeněk Kolařík.
Brno, Apr 29 (BD) – Earlier this year, the City of Brno stepped up preparations for a bid to become European Capital of Culture by expanding the Department of Culture with a strategic team (Read more in our previous article: “Brno Steps Up Preparations For 2028 European Capital of Culture Bid”). The initial stages of the campaign will consist of a number of public workshops aiming to connect people working within Brno’s cultural field, as well as volunteers from the public, to start a discussion about how Brno’s bid will progress, and what the city wants to achieve from the project.
On Friday evening, the first of these workshops was held at Clubwash, bringing together 20-30 key figures from Brno’s cultural scene for a presentation of the project and a round-table discussion. The workshop was organised by Marek Fišer (Piráti), Council Member for Culture, and led by Kateřina Vorlíčková, head of the city’s Cultural Department, and Mattijs Maussen, a Dutch cultural consultant who has worked on 15 previous Capital of Culture bids, 12 of which were successful, and is the chief adviser on Brno’s bid.
“The discussion focused on Brno’s identity, strengths and weaknesses, and what kind of city Brno wants to be in the future.”
Many of the people at the workshop were members of the Brno Cultural Parliament, though the meeting was not part of this framework. The discussion focused on Brno’s identity, strengths and weaknesses, and what kind of city Brno wants to be in the future, which according to Maussen are critical questions to be answered before a successful bid can be launched. (Read more about the process here: “An Interview With Marek Fiser, Brno City Council Member for Culture”.) Future workshops will continue along the same lines, opening the discussion to include volunteers who wish to contribute to the bid, including one workshop specifically aimed at foreign residents of Brno who want to be involved. Fišer was positive about the success of the event: “I have a lot of positive feedback from the people who attended and I was happy to see that they were ready to work together on this project. I also visited the ex-pat fair on Saturday to discuss organising similar workshops for ex-pats, as I see them as an important force.”
During the day on Friday, Fišer and Maussen went on a walkabout around Brno, visiting the first four so-called “epicentres”: places identified by the city’s cultural team as potential centres for cultural activities related to the bid, which could involve hosting events or promoting various aspects of the city’s cultural life. Other epicentres will be added as the project develops to reflect the wide variety of culture in the city.
The first stop was Dům pánů z Kunštátu, where they met with directors of the artistic program of Café Trojka and staff from the House of Arts, as well as some of the artists-in-residence who work there. This was followed by a visit to Industra café and art gallery, which will host various workshops and provide a creative space for the bid.
The group then continued to Ponava for lunch, where they met directors of Lužánky Park, representatives from the city’s open spaces team, and organisers of some of the major events that take place there, such as PonavaFest and JazzFest Brno, to discuss how the park is used by Brno residents and opportunities for cultural development related to the park.
The last stop was Káznice, the former prison in Cejl which is being transformed into a creative centre for the local community. (Read more in our previous article: “Former Cejl penitentiary to be transformed into Creative Center”.) Directors of the Káznice project led the group on a tour of the facility, and discussed plans for the future of the building, as well as ideas for working with the local community and the city. After the workshop at Clubwash, many of the participants continued to Art Bar Druhý Pád, which will also be one of the bid’s epicentres.
A long-term resident of Prague, Maussen has personal experience of working on this kind of project in the Czech context, having advised Plzeň on the town’s successful bid to become Capital of Culture in 2015. According to Maussen, the key to Plzeň’s bid was engaging with every part of the town’s cultural life, rather than Ostrava’s rival bid that emphasised the areas of the city’s culture that were already more well-known: “The engagement was done in a way that did not just focus on special groups in society, but more in a wider sense, just trying to find people that felt that this project was about hope and were therefore able to deliver civic energy, so we were able to tap into that civic energy, which is what stimulated the bid.”
Maussen also stressed the international nature of the project, while highlighting the need to keep local people at the centre: “The Plzeň bid was more European, and not in the sense of Brussels and the flag and so on, it was more European in terms of being trans-local, which means for example to connect a street in Plzeň with a street in San Sebastian, or a street in Slovakia, to try to build a Europe between people.”
Regarding Brno’s chances, Maussen said that a key part is to be realistic about the city’s weaknesses as well as its strengths: “You have to learn to listen to the things you don’t want to hear.”
Regarding Brno’s chances, Maussen said that a key part is to be realistic about the city’s weaknesses as well as its strengths, both in terms of solving problems for the preparation of the bid, and creating a lasting legacy for the city in the future: “The process that we are trying to set up, is to try to work on the DNA of the city, so that means that you have to listen very carefully, and that’s what I’ve learned when I was working with Plzeň: you have to learn to listen to the things you don’t want to hear. I also think that trust comes by foot and goes by horse, that’s why with a big project like this, you really have to start slowly.”
If you would like to be involved in the campaign to make Brno the European Capital of Culture 2028, join the volunteers’ Facebook group here.
Get the news first! Sign up for free to our daily newsletter here. Top stories of the day in your mailbox every morning.