Friday, September 06, 2013

Close but No Cigar! - Eindhoven Needs to Switch to Plan B(rabant)

The Netherlands and Malta get to pick their respective cities for the title of European Cultural Capital 2018. This is often seen by city mayors as rather like being chosen to host the Olympic games. And on a day like today when the winner is announced, there's a whole swarm of press and cameras who arrive with the satellite trucks out of nowhere. 

Always amazed that news crews are still using satellite trucks - and each station doing their own thing...

Like a White House press conference....
Over the years cities like Liverpool and Linz have put on spectacular festivals of cultural heritage in the broadest sense: music, design and the arts have featured prominently. But Linz, Austria managed to build a bridge with science when they were the Cultural capital in 2009 with their spectacular ARSElectronica festival.

The battle between the cities

Malta has already decided that Valetta will be its candidate. The Netherlands has organised a two year bidding process when the cities of Utrecht, The Hague, Almere, Maastricht, Eindhoven and Leeuwarden, who all showed initial interest, were gradually whittled down to just three. Maastricht, Eindhoven, Leeuwarden. Each came up with a very different interpretation. 

This afternoon, the international jury announced the winner is Leeuwarden, the capital of the province of Friesland. It came to me as a surprise because their performance at previous public presentations was thorough but not spectacular. Evidently, a rethink and team reshuffle in the final rush to the finish paid off handsomely. Their performance this week was first class. The jury was unanimous. Well done.

Eindhoven: what next?

Banners will still flying this morning in Eindhoven. Hope they don't rush to rip them down.

There can be only one winner. And Eindhoven's Mayor van Gijzel and his team, were clearly disappointed today that their bid involving 5 major cities in Noord Brabant wasn't chosen as the winner. They have set aside substantial funds over the last 2 years to realize a comprehensive bid, bridging industrial design with high-tech for which the region has built a worldwide reputation.

Eindhoven Mayor van Gijzel
I asked Mayor Rob van Gijzel what would happen now?

"This has been a supreme effort on behalf of many people. We're a smart city with a focus on the future. Our lead in the bid also involved working closely with four other cities in our large province - Tilburg, Den Bosch, Helmond and Breda as well as the provincial authorities. It has brought us all much closer together, especially because we were working towards a common goal. I am proud of our bid and the plans to build experimental gardens to push European frontiers of creative thinking."

"Albert Einstein has a strong link with our city of Eindhoven. And one particular quote has inspired us. "We can't solve the world's problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them". I would say that our region of the Netherlands is becoming known globally as a centre not only for disruptive thinking - but also doing."

"On Monday we will meet to decide how to proceed further. I hope that some of the goals we set ourselves for this project bid will still be able to be realised, even though we won't be doing this under the banner as European cultural capital. But during this exercise we have learned a lot about ourselves, our cities and our rich and diverse heritage. We also know that industry like Philips, and more recently ASML, have attracted thousands of foreign nationals to the region, along with the students studying at the great Universities in our region. So we congratulate our colleagues in Friesland on their successful bid. And we ourselves will also move forward."

Having been rather intensely involved in the city for the last couple of months because of the new high-tech accelerator Startupbootcamp HighTechXL, I've come to know the area as great cradle of innovation. They welcome alternative thinking with open arms. In fact, people there thrive on it. 

The vast changes to the city as the result of globalisation meant that the whole region "pivoted". They converted buildings which were once the world's largest radio factory into design studios and apartments. And out on the HighTech Campus, where I have been busy recently, the mentality changed from guarding secrets into open innovation and collaboration. 

I personally hope Eindhoven and the Province will reflect for a moment on what others did better. And then implement Plan B(rabant) to make as much use as possible of the creative energy and international good will that has been built so far. After all, that's exactly what experimental gardens (proeftuinen) were set up to do.

The title of this post has a double meaning. Spent last night together with around 200 expats at a meet and greet at the van Abbe Museum of Modern Art. Discovered that van Abbe, like many other wealthy entrepreneurs, came from a family of cigar makers. They made the town famous long before Philips. But that's another story.

Quick Cheat Sheet: What is a European Capital of Culture?

The European Capital of Culture is intended to promote European cultural heritage in all its richness and diversity. European citizens need get to know and understand each other better, becoming aware of the larger community to which they belong. The European Capital of Culture phenomenon was introduced by Mélina Mercouri, an actress, singer, writer and the first female Minister of Culture in Greece. She used her energy, persuasiveness and perseverance to convince people of the added value of art and culture for society. In 1985, Athens was chosen as the first European Capital of Culture, which proved to be a great success. Since then, one or two European cities are put in the spotlight every year. Since 1985 nearly 40 cities were European Capital of Culture, including Amsterdam in 1987 and Rotterdam in 2001. This year the European Capitals of Culture are Marseille (France) en Košice (Slovakia)


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