Day of Debate: encouragement and broad approval for the bid as European Cultural Capital

“Yes, we want to apply!” – Lord Mayor Barbara Ludwig opened the Day of Debate with these words. The City organised the event last Wednesday in the Small Function Room of the Town Hall.

The initiators of the bid received lots of approval for their ideas during the almost 2 ½ hour debate. The Day of Debate was an experiment, the first of its kind in Chemnitz. Around 280 citizens of the city gladly accepted the invitation.

During the talks, the residents named numerous examples for the city’s rich cultural life: the local industrial culture, the Industry Museum, the TIETZ Centre, the mills, the film festival Schlingel, the film nights on Theaterplatz, the park railway, as well as the sporting life in Chemnitz and the many different associations and initiatives.

Experiences obtained by former Cultural Capitals like Glasgow in Scotland or Pécs in Hungary were included in the debate. The cities launched major public relations campaigns to raise awareness through media reports, helping them to become more self-confident in the process. The audience expressed hope that Chemnitz would benefit from similarly long-lasting effects as well.

Compared to other cities like Dresden, Leipzig or Innsbruck, Chemnitz is not short of free space. Many of the speakers believed that filling these spaces with lively projects would present a major opportunity, often associated with the fervent wish that the younger generation and the independent scene be invited to contribute their ideas and services to the concept.

After all, the city just recently launched a strategy to attract young people. Christoph Thoma, Austrian culture manager and until recently the mastermind behind a possible bid by the Vorarlberg Rhine Valley cities, encouraged Chemnitz to continue down the bidding path, adding that the European dimension of the idea is important in order to succeed.

The process itself will be a boon, even if Chemnitz does not win. So including a »Plan B« in the concept is important. Uwe Gaul, State Secretary, Saxon Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts, assured that all bids in Saxony would be supported and welcomed the idea of emphasising their cosmopolitan spirit.

An application as European Cultural Capital is a clear declaration of belief in the European idea. But Saxony itself would benefit as well from the cultural debate stimulated by the bids.

Leipzig’s Cultural Mayor Dr Skadi Jennicke sent a written greeting, offering support and collaboration within the urban region.

The attending members of the German and regional parliaments, as well as the city council, largely welcomed the idea. Frequently heard arguments for a self-assured bid included the extremely active cultural scene, the varied and important history, the rich industrial culture and the prospect of a unique opportunity to develop the city.

That »you can easily get into all sorts of trouble with this kind of bid« was a solitary opinion, quickly refuted. “It should be OUR application”, said Lord Mayor Barbara Ludwig, summing up the evening. »The bigger the sense of togetherness, the better the chance that Chemnitz will win.« And the journey will certainly continue with formats like the Day of Debate.