A podium discussion was held in the Chemnitz public baths on 13 December. Residents of the city were invited to come and learn more about the potential behind an application as “European Cultural Capital 2025”. The particular venue was no coincidence.

In 1925, Fred Otto, director of the Urban Planning Department, had a vision of a modern city and designed the baths in Bauhaus style. The prize-winning architectural and cultural monument has stubbornly withstood the city’s transformation over the last almost 100 years and is now a source of inspiration for new visions: Chemnitz – European Cultural Capital 2025.

The meeting in the public baths was attended by Lord Mayor Barbara Ludwig, Dr Christoph Dittrich, director of the municipal theatre, Ferenc Csák, head of the City Culture Department, Dr Simona Neumann, director general of the Cultural Centre Temeswar 2021, and Jiří Suchánek, director general of the Cultural Centre Pilsen 2015.

The guests from Romania and the Czech Republic described their experience to the audience in two lively talks, providing information on costs and showing how they managed to convince the citizens of their cities and the jury of their projects.

The participants in the podium discussion provided answers to many questions. Here a selection:

How will the various areas like the university, the industrial sector or smaller groups like the do-it-yourself scene be included in the bidding process?

The city of Chemnitz has already started to promote participation and has held discussions with citizens at many public and private events. Representatives of the city gathered with stakeholders from the areas of culture, business, politics and science to discuss the potential, risks and ideas associated with an application during a number of workshops.

In Timișoara, the people behind the Cultural Capital project organised workshops, information evenings, public debates, mobilisation campaigns, seminars and countless informal meetings with artists, culture managers, politicians, functionaries, business people, young people, volunteers and the citizens of the city for five years. In the end it proved effective and convinced the jury.

Chemnitz can learn from these positive experiences. Another event – the Day of Debate – is already planned for January. Moreover, the initiators behind Chemnitz’s bid as Cultural Capital would like to use the two years before submitting the bid book to invite citizens and representatives from all walks of life to take part in more consultations. Acquiring a profound impression of public opinion is of eminent importance to the whole process.

The city of Chemnitz estimated the costs of organising the Cultural Capital year at €20 million. Is this estimate realistic?

If Chemnitz is successful with its bid, preparations for the Cultural Capital year 2025 will begin in 2021. The final budget will then depend on the actual, overall programme, comprising investment measures and the content of the programme itself.

Experience has shown that the municipalities carry around one third of the expenditure for preparing and implementing the Cultural Capital year themselves, while the federal and state governments also contribute a third. The final third is obtained from an EU fund, from ticket sales and sponsoring.

Timișoara has earmarked a budget of €48.5 million, setting aside €20 million from the city coffers as well. The national government contributes €12 million, the state €5 million, and Timișoara would like to generate another €11.5 million from EU programmes, foundations and the private sector.

The City of Pilsen spent roughly €18.2 million on the programme, administration and marketing. The budgets earmarked in these reference cities lend credence to our estimate in Chemnitz. Nevertheless, a »cost template« for Chemnitz simply does not exist. Every European Cultural Capital has its own, very individual ideas at the time of the bid, as well as during preparation and implementation of the Cultural Capital year.

What can be done to ensure a smooth bidding process?

Bidding for the title is a long journey, and the guests from Pilsen and Timișoara confirmed that not everything will work out at the first attempt. Both of the cities experienced crises and had to overcome challenges on the road to their titles.

Neither of the two speakers predicted that the journey would be plain sailing. But belief in one’s strengths, a healthy portion of self-criticism, determination by everyone involved to contribute, cooperate and build networks, a professional team of local specialists and external experts – and not least the convincing programme – ultimately helped the two winning cities to secure the title of European Cultural Capital.

How can I contribute individually to success?

“We will only become Cultural Capital if we do it together”, said Ferenc Csák when announcing the bid in August. Every voice and every opinion counts on the way to submitting a bid. So every citizen of Chemnitz is warmly invited to contribute to the process, to express an opinion, to discuss the project among friends and family and to voice clearly why Chemnitz should become European Cultural Capital in 2025.