Hlohovec aspiring to become a capital of European culture

Život v Hlohovci, February 2020

In 2026 one Slovak and one Finnish town will held a prestigious title of the European Capital of Culture (ECoC). Within Slovakia, Hlohovec also has the ambition to compete for this title. Six years of preparations may seem to be a long time period, but the candidate towns must submit their projects by October of this year. Can our bid be successful? What would this success mean for Hlohovec?

The reasons for Hlohovec’s interest to apply for this title are explained by the mayor Miroslav Kollár: „I am convinced that Hlohovec has the potential to become the European Capital of Culture. We have already achieved more than anyone had expected back in 2015. We were able to open the reconstructed castle up for the public, where for instance signing of a sponsorship contract with a Slovak company for his team by the boss of one of the world’s most successful cycling teams Patrick Lefevre took place, shortly after the finish of a stage of Tour of Slovakia at the castle that saw international cycling champions like Demare, Kristoff and Viviani fighting for the victory. We are one of the most innovative, transparent and most operationally efficient towns in Slovakia, with a place for every child in our kindergartens, with new council housing, with a renewed school in Šulekovo part, etc. The ECoC project is a way for us to leap forward not only in the area of culture, because we’re looking at the entire concept from a much wider perspective. It could also help us overcome the useless divide in town that is not contributing to a positive atmosphere, is preventing us from cooperating effectively and is hindering our potential for improvements and enjoyment of the lifestyle our town offers. I believe that a connection with culture and arts can help build connections between people, inspire our creativity, taste, affect our moral and ethical values, increases the quality of life and strengthens the civic society. And I also think that in contrast to that, a lack of culture fosters and feeds the extremism in a society. In the last five years we undertook massive investments in the cultural infrastructure in town and into widening of what we have to offer culturally. It should therefore be a natural extension of the process that we have already started.”

“For us, an encouragement and confirmation that when it comes to the importance of culture for regional development and in stressing the development of town region of Hlohovec today we are thinking along the same lines as the rest of Europe, is the selection of the ECoC from Austria for 2024 only a few weeks ago. The finalists were St. Pölten, a town with a population of 150.000, a clear front-runner that had spent a large budget in preparation for the project and was a top-pick by the Austrian media; Dornbirn with a population of 50.000 and Bad Ischl with a population of 14.000. Low and behold, the winner was Bad Ischl from the Salt cave area of central Austria, with a project based on cooperation with surrounding villages a leading catch-phrase “let culture be our new salt”. I trust that the competition from other towns applying with a project will be wide so that the expert panel has plenty to choose from. Even if we don’t win, the preparation of the project alone has a key aspect for me personally – I would love to invite everyone who is serious, honest and positive about culture in this town to the same table, all who put the quality lifestyle of our community above their own personal interest. We have a chance to create a space for strengthening of creative industries, innovations, drawing on the inner potential of our town, our high schools, increasing the attractiveness of our town for young people.“

The title of the ECoC is designated by the European Commission and the European Parliament to one or two European towns that have for an entire year an opportunity to introduce their cultural lifestyle and its development to the rest of Europe. A panel of 12 experts will select the finalists and then the winner. Ten members of the panel are appointed by European institutions and bodies, i.e. the European Parliament, European Council, European Commission and European Committee of the Regions and two members are to be experts appointed by the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic in accordance with the national processes and after consultation with the European Commission. Already now we know that apart from Hlohovec, six regional cities are planning to bid for the ECoC 2026, and in addition also Martin and Nové Zámky. Any other Slovak town can also apply.