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"Enterprising culture" by Bernard Faivre d'Arcier, president of the Biennales de Lyon and president of the Chaumont sur Loire Domain

For a French capital of Culture

France invented numerous events in line with our time: famous festivals, from Avignon to Aix-en-Provence, from Cannes to Aurillac, from Montpellier to Marciac, but also more recently events both cultural and festive, such as the Fête de la Musique (World Music Day), the days of heritage, the night of museums, the festival of cinema, the sleepless nights of Paris and Metz, the festival of Lights in Lyon, the crazy days and the travel in Nantes, the festival of gardens in Chaumont-sur-Loire, or Etonnants voyageurs (astonished travellers) in St-Malon. All these events have a true personality, are lasting and contribute to a form of cultural tourism associating both democratic and artistic requirements.

Article previously published in french on the

The idea of European Capitals of Culture also came from France, with its first initiative in 1985 by Jack Lang and Mélina Mercouri. The recent European Capitals of Culture held in France, in Lille in 2004 and Marseille in 2013 have both cultural and touristic excellent assessments. However, France will have to wait until 2028 to propose one of its cities to obtain the label, given the current number of states in the EU.

Why wait such a long time to nominate at a regular interval (2 years for example) a French Capital of Culture which could gather both public and media attention, and create a strong cultural tourism wave? Flanders, the United Kingdom, Ireland, they have already seized the opportunity and they organise on their own a national competition based on their own goals and criteria. The idea is not to copy the European Capitals of Culture and offer a cheap version of it, but more to single out the artistic innovation and cultural attractiveness of one of our cities, at a time when all ambitions are only focused on the Capital, which is candidate for the 2024 Olympic games, or for a hypothetical universal exhibition in 2025. The first aim is to highlight the role of local and regional authorities in artistic fields and international cultural cooperation, by creating a distinct brand image of traditional heritage, and target new touristic publics, as indicated by forecasting studies.

Its aim is not to cover all cultural activities, but to enhance three or four main innovating projects of the winning city, offering opportunities of new partnerships between cultural actors, private partners, universities, public institutions, and by enabling international cooperation not only limited to Europe. This idea was warmly welcomed by many cities and regions. At least about ten cities indicated they were interested in taking part in such a competition.

The idea is to create a new brand image which could place French cities, whether medium or large, in the spotlight, and single them out thanks to their original initiatives. This originality would be appreciated by a jury of professionals who have won their spurs in the success of organising new events, with a large public, supported by artists and giving them and international influence.

Such a competition to receive the label of French Capital of Culture must not lead to budgetary waste. The aim is not to construct new cultural buildings and multiply investments without a proper functioning budget for the years after. It is more to support the entrepreneurs of the future, who will invent new forms of artistic creation and new ways of mediating around them in our recently reshaped territories.