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The Warsaw Voice » Other » May 7, 2008
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Quest to Become Capital of Culture
May 7, 2008   
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Does £ód¼ stand a chance of being named by the EU as a European Capital of Culture of 2016? Danuta Gruszczyńska asked a number of prominent figures linked with the city. All said £ód¼ would gain measurable benefits if it gains such status, and argued the city's multicultural history makes it an ideal choice for a Capital of Culture.

Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, European Parliament deputy from the Civic Platform (PO).

Naming a European Capital of Culture has become an established practice in the European Union. Different cities, bigger and smaller, apply for this status. The rule is that the title is granted to one city from the "old" EU states and to one from among the "new" EU members as there is a certain deficit of knowledge about the "new" members. Several Polish cities are competing for the status of European Capital of Culture.

So Polish cities will be trying to pip domestic rivals to the post. It will also be necessary to find a good partner city. One idea is to find a city with a similar history and character. £ód¼ could pair up with Spain's Bilbao, which has become famous for its Guggenheim Museum. Owing to the museum, this primarily industrial city has become a place with cultural ambitions. £ód¼ also has an industrial past and an excellent Museum of Art.

The concept behind the annual Dialogue of Four Cultures Festival held in £ód¼ further legitimizes the city's aspirations to the title of European Capital of Culture. £ód¼ has grown out of a blend of different traditions and cultures, just like today's united Europe. In historical terms, £ód¼ is like a laboratory whose message in the European context is very clear, constituting part of the main discussions about European identity that are held in the EU today.

This year is a year of Intercultural Dialogue in Europe. The main motto of the preamble to the draft EU constitution is "unity in diversity." The union sees diversity as a foundation for building on. This approach can be transferred to £ód¼. The city can be promoted as an open, tolerant place with diverse roots.

How can today's cities compete in Europe and the world? They can promote the things that make them unique, that will stay in their visitors' memory.

One such thing is urban regeneration. £ód¼ already has such projects, for example the Manufaktura shopping mall. Modernization of one of the city's central buildings, which will become the new headquarters of the Museum of Art, is nearly complete. The city is preparing to redevelop Ksiźæy M³yn, one of the world's most interesting residential/industrial heritage sites, which stands a good chance of finding its way onto the UNESCO world heritage list. Another large project involves the redevelopment of the 100-year-old EC-1 heat and power plant and of the nearby £ód¼ Fabryczna rail station. The area will become a new city center with numerous cultural and arts facilities. This large-scale project has attracted the attention of some famous people, including film director David Lynch and architect Rob Krier.

£ód¼ should by all means strive to obtain the status of European Capital of Culture. Even if it fails, the promotional campaign will improve its image and this will help attract investment and enhance the city's development. This is investing in the future. Wroc³aw is one good example of this. Even though it failed this year to win the right to hold the international Expo trade fair it has promoted itself and this may help it in the race to host the European Technology Institute.

Karl Dedecius, born in 1921 in £ód¼. German translator. In 1980 he founded the Deutsches Polen-Institut in Darmstadt that promotes Polish literature in Germany and strives to improve Polish-German relations. He has also authored a seven-volume work on Polish 20th-century literature.

I remember £ód¼ with great sentiment, like a son holding fond memories of his mother. I knew and loved this city as a city of hard-working people who were ambitious but not excessively competitive, who were predominantly friendly and tolerant, despite significant differences in origin, nationality and faith. My upbringing was most influenced by the Polish high school that I completed in May 1939.

At our schools, the teachers-most of them Polish, and a small number of German or Russian origin-managed to shape us into loyal citizens, despite our diverse European roots, languages and religions. This city in the center of Poland was like a seed of Europe, an example of a Europe that we all, or most of us, have dreamed about. The success of £ód¼ and its fast growing prosperity after World War I proved this attitude was right and confirmed the city's potential-until the start of World War II in September 1939.
I dream and wish the city that it again becomes a lively center of European cooperation for international understanding and peace. This will not be easy. It will require much effort and people helping one another.

Konstanty Andrzej Kulka, an internationally-renowned Polish violinist.

The history of £ód¼ is a blend of diverse cultures. I think that we should support this initiative because we have to take care of our country and culture. Culture has always had a prominent place in Poland. The previous, communist, system could not boast about the country's economy, so it boasted about Polish culture. It would be good if £ód¼ succeeded in winning the title of European Capital of Culture, particularly as the city still has much fresh history and links between different cultures and nationalities that many people can still remember. That is important. I strongly back this idea. It will be a tough competition. I am rooting for £ód¼ since I have a countryside home in £ód¼ province. I played my first concert here more than 40 years ago. I've lost count how many times I've played together with the £ód¼ orchestra-dozens, for sure. So I have a sentiment for £ód¼. I like this colorful city-at least some of its districts. I think that any idea that will boost interest in Poland and attract foreign capital is beneficial for the city.

Prof. Adam Dziki, an acclaimed surgeon, head of the Surgery Department of the University of £ód¼, a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the only Polish member of the American College of Surgeons.

I think that £ód¼ should become a European Capital of Culture for historical and geographical reasons. In historical terms, the city has worked for this, hosting four different cultures. Here, Jews, Germans, Russians and Poles worked and lived together. And in geographical terms, £ód¼ is a transport network hub located in the center of Poland, and Poland is located centrally in Europe, so the city is a good location for a center of culture.

Jakub Stźpień, a £ód¼-based graphic artist, the only Pole included in the prestigious U.S. publication New Masters of Poster Design, which features the world's 50 best poster artists. He creates work that appears on billboards which will be used during a promotion campaign for the new headquarters of the £ód¼ Museum of Art in the Manufaktura shopping mall. The billboards will also be displayed in major Polish cities.

I'm a native of £ód¼ and I want this to be a place where things are happening. £ód¼ has an interesting energy and it's worth using the city to hold new cultural events. I think that many interesting things can be done here, that the city's post-industrial space can be filled with something new, lending the city a new identity.

Barbara Knychalska, wife of Witold Knychalski, who set up the Dialogue of Four Cultures Festival in 2002. He died in 2006.

As a former industrial city, £ód¼ has to redefine its identity. As for cultural infrastructure, the world's dominant trend nowadays is to adapt postindustrial premises for cultural and artistic centers. In this respect, £ód¼ has enormous potential, with dozens of empty factory halls waiting for new uses. £ód¼ has always been an artistically alive and unconventional city.

It has great artistic potential. It has amazingly good energy for contemporary art and culture.

Kajus Augustyniak, press officer for the mayor of £ód¼:
In our efforts to be named European Capital of Culture in 2016, we have to constantly fight the stereotype still prevalent in some circles that £ód¼ is a city without culture and without history. There are people, occurrences and trends known internationally and yet they are not associated with £ód¼. We have to make everyone aware that there are few cities in Poland that hold as many international events as we do here. It is often forgotten that throughout the world our city is associated with modern art. When we organized celebrations in Brussels to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Polish-American virtuoso pianist Artur Rubinstein (1887-1982), many people were surprised to find out that he was connected with £ód¼.

And what is ahead of us? The EC 1 is the most important challenge, it is a huge project to build a new city center. The project is not only a construction one, but also one to create a new art and cultural center that will have atmosphere and character.

And finally, I would like to point out that efforts to be named European Capital of Culture have inspired £ód¼ residents to become involved in organizing various cultural activities. I believe this community activity to be the most valuable.

Danuta Gruszczyńska and Maria Sondej
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