European Capital of Culture is a designation to a city that is conferred to the city for a period of one year, when cultural events focusing mainly on the European cultural aspect are organised. During this period a city can gain important socio-economic, political as well as environmental benefits. Urban regeneration is also fostered highlighting and raising the city’s visibility regionally as well as internationally (Page et al 2008, p. 78).
After Athens was crowned as the European Capital of Culture in 1985, other 39 cities have held the crown in Europe. After a quarter of a century, Europe’s premier cultural event has acquired a high profile as well as prestige. The European Commission acknowledges this by expounding on its profile the events-cultural, urban, tourist and economic potential offered in terms of urban regeneration and image boosting both at the international as well as European level.
Regeneration or re-invention
Liverpool became a focus of study after its transformation from relative degeneration to a remarkable turnaround after acquiring the European Capital of Culture status. Regeneration can be best exemplified by the case of Liverpool. Liverpool used to be the second most important port in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries. Manufacturing had dwindled while the services sector was not growing. The changes witnessed in the international trade especially the shipping sector had contributed to a gradual decline in the fortunes of Liverpool; this was particularly noticeable in the waterfront docklands (Selby 2003, p. 45).
National targets; delivered locally
(a) After 1997 most of the responsibilities were under the regional developmental agencies;
(b) Currently, those responsibilities are managed by local strategic partnerships like in the case of Liverpool (Liverpool first).
- To reach the status of the carbon neutral northwest;
- To achieve “a one planet living” across the northwest region;
- By 2030, the northwest region to be carbon neutral;
- In an equitable way to tackle climatic changes through encouraging the residents to live within a fair share of carbon;
- Yorkshire and Humber’s ecological footprint to be reduced in ten years to 25%;
- To be’ a one planet living’ for the East midlands by people living within their means;
- Be “a one planet region in the East of England”;
- Be a low carbon emitting London;
- To reduce and be able to stabilise the South East regions’ ecological footprint.
Sustainable community is one that meets the objectives and needs of its members both present and future ones while leaving a minimum carbon footprint.
- Communities have a representation that is inclusive, participatory and with effective leadership;
- Communities are inclusive, active and safe;
- Have a populace sensitive to environmental issues;
- Have an environment that is well built and designed;
- Are well served with public as well as community services;
- Have a thriving local community with flourishing economy;
- Are fair to everyone even those living in other communities presently and also in the future.
- To create effective network by bringing departments, institutions agencies and people together;
- “Since culture is central to what the Government wants, whether to the economy, tackling exclusion or for the quality of life, thus it places high value on culture”.
- Impacts of Liverpool 2008 ECoC
Regeneration of Liverpool – hosting the ECoC 2008 - acted as a rebirth for Liverpool. For a city that was on the downward trend, the title breathed a lease of life.
The event, ECoC 2008 Programme totalled an income of £130 million over 6 years, beling the highest of any ECoC.
1. Cultural Participation and Access Enhanced.
ECoC Programme was socio-economically and geographically inclusive:
(a) Geographically. The attendance of 2008 ECoC was had 5% of international visitors, about a sixth from outside the region while one third was local;
(b) Socially. The socio-economic profile of the attendants matched the town’s profile.
Participants reported positive social and cultural outcomes from their engagements in the programme; welcoming overseas visitors gave them the satisfaction of promoting Liverpool’s heritage and culture (Porter et al 2009).
2. During 2006-2009, a wider cultural interaction took place in the Northwest region and Liverpool.
-Across Liverpool a yearly 10% rise in arts audiences was witnessed;
-A considerable reduction in people who had no interest in culture;
-In Merseyside, a rise of 50% in visitors, this being the 7th largest attraction since 2004, reaching 5.5million in 2008 (Pacione 2008, p. 330).
3. Year 2009.
-Residents of Liverpool, about 66%, participated in one ECoC event;
-Over 60% of residents in the Northwest believed that by 2008 there were more opportunities culturally than before.
The Figures: Economy and Tourism.
Liverpool ECoC Attendance:
ECoC Liverpool attracted 9.7million of additional visits, making up 35% of all visits in the year 2008.
An economic impact on additional direct visitor spending of £753.8 million took place over the wider Northwest region, Merseyside and Liverpool.
-2.6 million European and overseas visitors were attracted by 2008 ECoC, 97% of them were first-time visitors;
-1.4 million stayed-in nights in Liverpool hotels, Merseyside had 1.29 million while 1.7million were located in Northwest.
Tourism Trends in 2008.
- A 34% rise over the previous year’s visits to Liverpool constituting 27.7 m;
- 75.1 m directed to Merseyside, making a rise of 19% in the previous years;
- Merseyside had a 20% day-visit increase between 2007 and 2008, compared with a drop of 7% in the greater Manchester area.
Cultural Sustainability and Vibrancy
(a) Since ECoC nomination in 2003;
Local as well as national media focus shifted from the negative social issues to the city’s cultural assets.
- Diversification of media coverage away from pop music and built environment to performing arts;
- Thus, the culture sector of the city has built strong networks resulting in getting grants, for example Liverpool Arts Regeneration Consortium, and the small and medium arts collective, together with arts and culture network (Smith 2007, p. 161).
(b) Towards the end of 2008;Liverpool ECoC was viewed as a success since it raised the city’s profile, especially what it offered in terms of arts and culture in enhancing the interactions between locals and visitors.
- Over 50% percent of the local cultural peers confirmed that Liverpool had regained the status of the “world class city”;
- 11,000 people were employed by 1,683 enterprises.
- Press reporting shifted into a balanced, positive, negative and balanced neutral coverage.
(c) Image and perception.
77% of the sampled visitors felt that the city was safer than they had previously thought.
- Google searches revealed a comparable popularity between ECoC searches with Football matches’ searches (Seligman et al 2008, p. 44);
2005-2008 – positive impressions of Liverpool by the U.K populace increased from 53% to 60% while 20% of negative views/impressions of Liverpool dropped to 14%.