European Capitals of Culture 2017

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Martin Andersen

14 March 2017

Time to Read


Originally started as an EU-backed initiative in 1985 by two ministers from Greece and France, the European Capital of Culture was intended to serve as a bridge between European countries and a way to celebrate diversity and art across borders. Starting with Athens as the first Cultural Capital in 1985, more than 50 different cities have since been awarded the coveted accolade. Chosen cities have been found to benefit tremendously both socio-economically and culturally, and the accolade often serves as a catalyst for further growth and development in these areas. In 2007 it was decided to double the choice to two different host cities, and this year the European Capitals of Culture are Paphos in Cyprus and Aarhus in Denmark. Here is a short guide to the two cities and what you can expect from them during their stewardship of the award.

Paphos, Cyprus – The Open Air Factory, Linking continents – Bridging Cultures

The ancient, sun-swept city of Paphos embarks on its year as Cultural Capital under two slogans and a logo that all sum up perfectly what this Cypriot coastal town is about. The logo has been designed to reflect numerous different aspects of the city. An orange and yellow halo, with a white centre, the logo can, on one hand, be seen as the sun over the Mediterranean island. The city enters 2017 under the name of The Open Air Factory, which of course is a reference to the beautiful scenery and nature surrounding the island. According to Greek mythology, Paphos is the birthplace of the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, and under the warm glow of the Cypriot sun, this really is an enchanting part of the world. The Open Air Factory also focuses on the age-old tradition of art and culture being performed in an open space, such as in amphitheatres, and the city aims to broaden its status as cultural capital by reaching out across the region and thus enabling more space for art and culture to thrive across Cyprus. On the other hand, the logo can also be interpreted as a mosaics of colours, backgrounds and ideas, summing up the rich diversity and cultural tapestry that inhabits this modern city. The latter complements the second slogan “Linking continents – Bridging Culture”, which draws on the island’s location between Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The city wants to use its year as Cultural Capital to build bridges across different cultures in the city, such as residents, tourists and migrants. A wide range of events will take place across the city throughout the year, and new art, music, theatre and cinema –among a host of other initiatives will incorporate the multitude of voices and outlooks that have found their way to Paphos over the centuries. Already well under way, the programme is a veritable horn of plenty when it comes to events that not only cross borders but also leap across various genres. Catch the Philharmonic Encounters and the Jazz Encounters concerts in April, where various bands and orchestras link up for unforgettable soundscapes, see the International Contemporary Dance Festival on 1 June or choose to explore some of the numerous art installations that will pop up across the city over the summer. For more information check out the programme here:


Aarhus, Denmark – Let’s Rethink

The second-largest city in Denmark, Aarhus is a youthful, modern city with a history that stretches back to the Vikings. The recent decades has seen the city grow tremendously as a hub for creativity and innovation, and this is reflected in the theme that has been chosen for 2017. Under the slogan of “Let’s Rethink”, Aarhus plans to include the surrounding, smaller regions to create several spaces where creativity and new ideas can flourish. Visitors to Aarhus will encounter a modern city that is easy to navigate and where there are lots of things to experience apart from the cultural events that are planned around 2017.  Gaze across the city from the top of the museum of modern art, AROS, where a rainbow-coloured, circular viewing platform gives a unique experience of the city. Stroll through the charming, cobbled streets surrounding the centre and the medieval cathedral. Make your way along the rejuvenated harbour-front where modern architecture now dominates the once industrial docklands. In Aarhus, you can also visit the Old Town, which contains buildings from the last 500 years. Each house has been lovingly restored and a stroll through the cobbled streets will be like a crash course on Danish history.

Throughout the year, you can explore some of the playful and creative installations, artworks and happenings that will pop up across the city and the region. Discover the interactive installations of Urban Instigator appearing around Aarhus, experience great Danish jazz infused with Indian tones through Global Jazz Explorer or swing by one of the many galleries and exhibitions that will populate the urban landscapes in the city and beyond. Further afield you can experience great music at the former industrial harbour of Randers just north of Aarhus at the Watermusic Festival which takes places in early September, while the annual Silkeborg Fireworks Regatta in mid-August promises to bathe the beautiful river that runs just west of Aarhus in stunning colours and marvellous pyrotechnics. Immersing yourself in a different side of Denmark in 2017 will make you rethink this wonderful small country as more than just crime noir and “hygge”, this is also a country full of colour and creativity. Check the full programme here:


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