I’m going to launch a petition to have Bergerac designated as France’s next European Capital of Culture. I have a wait on my hands, mind. Not until 2028 will France again be able to enjoy the attention – and economic benefits – the title brings.
Marseille was Europe’s capital of culture last year, making it the fourth French city to hold the title. The first was Paris in 1989, then Avignon ten years later and Lille in 2004.
Greek actress Melina Mercouri is credited with having come up with the idea to have European capitals of culture back in 1985, and Athens became the first city to be awarded the title.
Arguably, capital cities such as Athens, Paris and Berlin didn’t really need the attention. They had strong cultural scenes anyway. Where this award has really had an impact is when it’s been held by a city in need of regeneration.
It is a remarkable opportunity to transform a city. Look at the impact it had on Lille, for example. When its traditional industries of mining and textiles went into decline in the 1960s and 1970s, the city began to struggle. It turned to service industries for salvation and there is no doubt that it benefitted hugely from 2004’s injection of culture. And cash.
Bergerac isn’t in the same position that Lille was, but a little extra love and attention wouldn’t go amiss.
In reality, two cities have jointly held the title each year since 2007: one in western Europe and one in the east. By the time Bergerac – hopefully – comes to hold the title, three cities will share it. The third one will be in a country that is applying for EU membership.
France won’t issue a call for bids until 2022, so I’ve got some time to drum up support for Bergerac.
While I’m here over the coming week, I might begin sounding out people about the idea.