European Capital of Culture Ireland 2020 – The not-so-secret winning formula

Continuing our blog about all things ECOC 2020, we thought we would share with you the results of the scoping exercise we conducted quite some time ago in order to try and arrive at the recipe for the winning formula.

We read the reports and we asked the experts and here’s what we gleaned and concluded…….

A winning European Capital of Culture bid:

  • Is inspirational.
  • Is about active rather than passive participation therefore not about buildings and venues but rather about engaging all of the community – leaving no one out.
  • Can demonstrate that the bid development process got real buy-in from all the stakeholders – leaving no one out.
  • Can convince that the process will use and develop the creative capacity of the city’s creative workforce.
  • Demonstrates that it knows that the single twelve month period as Capital of Culture is not isolated in time or local cultural policy but rather is a driver of enduring cultural policy for many years both before and after.
  • Is actively ‘owned’ locally, not passively accepted, having been developed by consultants.
  • Derives from a complex process of instigating, facilitating and guiding different groups and individuals in the region through a heavy set of workshops, seminars and coaching in many different areas related to the EU’s criteria and the city’s priorities.
  • Looks outward by extending to and drawing from pan-European partners through active, collaborative trans-national partnerships at every level of the programme.
  • Is not confined within city limits but extends to and draws from the wider county and region for critical mass and legacy.
  • Must be able to stand up to a due diligence process aimed at determining whether or not the project plan is deliverable or will it be significantly influenced or altered as the year approaches.
  • Provokes a real change where the city begins to operate on a more European scale, learning from models elsewhere.
  • Is ‘needs focused’ and ‘developmental’ in approach – and not ‘events focused’ and restrictive in terms of unrealistic deliverables and timescales.

In summary –  in order to win, you must show inspiration, prove engagement, buy-in and inclusion and tap fully into your creative capacity.  The strategy must be enduring, actively owned, complex, outward looking, unbounded, robust, transforming, provocative, needs focussed and developmental.

If those elements sound like the building blocks for good policy in general and good cultural policy in particular, it is no coincidence.

That is what this whole exercise boils down down to – the application of best practise in cultural policy development.  The fact that, in order to win ECOC 2020, candidates must also prove their genuine ability and sincere commitment to deliver should, in theory, separate the trophy hunters from those passionate about culture and change.  That’s the theory, but the Internet is littered with salutary tales of failure where capitals and cities of culture are concerned.  Here’s hoping Ireland 2020 gets it right and places the emphasis firmly on sustainable cultural policy (wherein lies the real prize) rather than on winning for the sake of it.