Throughout 2018, Leeuwarden (and the wider province of Friesland) will play host to hundreds of artists and performers thanks to its title as European Capital of Culture. In addition to figuring out what to see and where, you may also be wondering: what is a Capital of Culture? Here are answers to the five W’s about what this title means to the city and the region.
What is the Capital of Culture?
The Capital of Culture is a title given to various European cities since 1985. Melina Mecouri, a former Greek minister of culture, came up with the idea in 1983 as a way to pay special attention to the cultural character of European cities. Two years later, the European City of Culture programme was launched, and Athens was the first city to earn the title. Cities or regions that have been chosen are often less well-known, and the selection panel – consisting of members representing different institutions within the European Union – make their decision in part based upon how the title can give a boost to the chosen city, both among outsiders and its own inhabitants.
Why is Leeuwarden the Capital of Culture?
In December 2012, Leeuwarden’s candidacy as one of the Dutch cities eligible to become the Capital of Culture 2018. By September 6, 2013, the European Capital of Culture selection panel declared Leeuwarden the winner, beating out Eindhoven, Maastricht, The Hague and Utrecht for the title. In explaining why they chose the Frisian capital, the panel expressed their appreciation for how the region sought to address issues through culture, namely “re-definition of the relationship between city and the countryside, the need to further promote and foster cultural and environmental sustainability, and the opening-up of historically very cohesive and inward looking communities.” The theme of LF2018 is “Iepen Mienskip” (“Open Society”).
Who is paying for the Capital of Culture?
Current cost estimates for putting on the ambitious events calendar is 61 million euros: one-third of the financing comes from sponsors, one-third comes from the province of Friesland, and the rest of the money is coming from the city of Leeuwarden, other Frisian municipalities (some more willingly than others), the central Dutch government, the European Union and other miscellaneous funds. Public spaces and other infrastructure in the province, particularly in Leeuwarden, have also been upgraded in the lead up to the Capital of Culture year.
When is the Capital of Culture year happening?
Right now. On January 28th, Capital of Culture Leeuwarden-Friesland officially kicked off with a city-wide spectacle in Leeuwarden. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima attended the opening ceremony, which took place across three different public squares in the Frisian capital with musical performances and interactive art projections on towers built to resemble the crooked Oldehoeve church tower. Church bells in towers across the province also chimed to ring in the momentous occasion. Through 2018, 390 different cultural events, presentations, exhibitions, festivals, conferences and workshops will be taking place across the province of Friesland (34 events will be taking place either in part or entirely in English).
Where are the Capital of Culture events happening?
Pretty much everywhere. Nearly every town, city, field and beach across Friesland will be putting on at least one cultural event at some point in 2018.
While the vast majority of activities will take place in Leeuwarden, The Northern Times picked out a couple of activities happening in the more far-flung parts of the province:
St. Matthew Passion (in Frisian)
|30 March, 7:30 p.m., Theater Sneek, Sneek
Various locations in the north from 22 March through 30 March at 7:30 p.m.The Northern Netherlands Orchestra will be one among many musical companies performing Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion”, Johan Sebastian Bach’s oratorio telling the story of Jesus’s trial and eventual death, across the northern Netherlands. But what sets NNO’s performance apart is that it will be performed in Frisian by the Northern Netherlands Concert Choir.March 22: Stadschouwburg De Harmonie, Leeuwarden
23 March: St. Martinuskerk, Dokkum
24 March: Grote Kerk, Harlingen
27 March: Schouwburg De Lawei, Drachten
29 March: De Oosterpoort, Groningen
30 March: Theater Sneek, Sneek
Oerol: Sense of Place
|15-24 June, Terschelling
More than 50,000 visitors make their way from one intriguing concert and theatrical performance to the next between the high dunes on the island of Terschelling every summer at the Oerol festival. During LF2018, the theme of the nine-day cultural event is Sense of Place, bringing together artists, landscape architects, biologists and water/forestry management groups to reflect the ways in which the in turns wild and cultivated Dutch landscape has evolved over time through art.
Opera Spanga | Aida
|24 July, 8:30 p.m., Spanghoekweg 47
Westerlingwerf, 24 July, 13 August and every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday between 26 July and 11 August
The classic opera “Aida”, set in a war-torn Egypt and written in 1870 by Giuseppe Verde, has been updated by Corina van Eijk and Opera Spanga to focus on the senselessness and destructiveness of modern conflicts such as the ongoing violence in Syria. The opera will also be staged in the other European Capital of Culture 2018: Valletta, Malta.
Tall Ships Races
|3 through 6 August, Harlingen
This spectacular sailing race takes place in the picturesque harbour town of Harlingen annually, and 2018 is no exception: 80 three-mast ships, manned by a crew of young sailors, will triumphantly enter Harlingen following two races, one from Sunderland (England) to Ejsberg (Denmark) and another from Stravanger (Norway) to the Dutch barrier islands of Terschelling and Vlieland. Poems and stories inspired by the ocean will also be read aloud on the streets of Harlingen during “The Sea! The Sea!”.
|17 through 19 August, Leeuwarden
French theatre group Royal de Luxe is famous for using entire cities as the stage for productions telling tales starring their massive mechanical marionettes. Past productions have featured a “little” (30-foot-tall) girl, an elephant, and a man in a diving suit, and each show is customized to reflect the history of their environment. Although the route of the impressive creations will not be made known until a week before the show, it is known that the puppets will be acting out a story inspired by the Afsluitdijk, the 20-mile-long causeway across the Ijsselmeer.