Show me the money or is it all just for show?

Show me the money or is it all just for show?

Realistically speaking, the European Capital train does not come every day in a city that suffers already from the fact that it is not located on great European routes. If you’ve missed it, a good exercise would be to see why it happened.

Because the way you (do not) approach an important project is a business card of the city and it tells an investor or a tourist more than would a brochure or a thousand political statements.

We should therefore study the report drawn up by the jury of European experts (see below) on the file submitted by Iaşi.

 Iaşi presented their bid under the banner of “Switch On Iaşi 2021”. The main objectives are to trigger a long term process which will turn Iaşi into an eastern interface of European culture and to build co-operation bridges across the EU border to Moldova and Ukraine. The programme has four main divisions: Creative Bridges, Celebrating Spiritual Diversity, Longing and Belonging and Connecting Dots and one addendum: Carbon Copy.

The proposed operating budget is €35.5m of which €23.625m would be allocated to programmes.

The intention to share and replicate a considerable number of events and develop joint projects of training, collaboration and exchanges with cities in Ukraine and Moldova is ambitious and could provide a strong contribution to the European Dimension. The panel was however disappointed not to have the opportunity to hear from representatives of the partner cities. Two and three-way cross-border cooperation is a significant objective but the panel was not sure if the proposed cooperation was primarily showcasing or indeed contributed to the cultural and civic development in the proposed partners. The panel was also uninformed of the financial and management arrangements for this proposed co-operation.

The other elements of the proposed programme had many strong points and the potential to have a local impact. The panel was concerned that 250 of the 342 proposed projects are existing cultural projects with programme costs already fixed. The criterion for the ECOC requires a special programme to be developed rather than a continuation of the existing cultural offer in a city.

The cross-border project is potentially a positive element towards the European dimension criterion but the panel felt that the other strands of the programme were less developed with international partners or inter-cultural dialogue. The programme failed to sustain how it intends to become the eastern interface of western culture. It lacked notably a clear artistic vision to question and develop this crossroads position of a city with multiple influences.

The bid book recognised that the city was less open to contemporary art, innovation and the avant-garde. The panel felt the proposed programme, with a strong focus on history and heritage, would re-inforce this perception rather than use the ECOC to transform the city’s cultural sector and audience. A more balanced approach would have improved the bid.

The panel felt that key areas were dealt with only in a cursory manner rather than in depth. Examples included the traumatic memory of the “Pogrom of Iasi” in 1941 and a project with the Roma; this was an area where the programme could have been significantly increased to meet the inter-cultural dialogue component of the artistic vision criterion.

The city has a strong reputation for its creative industries and the panel appreciated the demonstration of one of possible projects. Several of the proposed projects included the CCIs although this area could be built into a stronger element of the programme notably including the reputed dynamism in fashion and clothes as well as in publishing and media; there was less information about their subsequent development. The bid was limited in its approach to both audience development and capacity building in the cultural sector.

The panel noted the information about consultation with citizens and cultural operators but was less clear how much of the outcomes of these consultations made it to the concept and programme.

Overall the panel felt the bid reflected a steady approach to the heritage basis of the city. Many of the projects, including plans for urban development, are already underway and will contribute to a stronger local cultural and tourist offer. The cross-border cooperation was less developed, as noted above.

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