European Capitals of Culture 2017 and 2018: Aarhus, Valetta and Leeuwarden-Friesland
Each year Europe selects two capitals of culture. In 2017, Aarhus in Denmark shared the honour with Pafos, Greece, and attracted some top British talent from the fields of film, the visual arts, literature and music. This year, the cities of Valetta in Malta and Leeuwarden-Friesland in the Netherlands take the baton.
British Council Denmark looks back over the last year and asks: what were the highlights, what did Aarhus 2017 teach us, and what’s coming next?
Revolutionising the possibilities of film
2097: We Made Ourselves Over, Live in Aarhus was a special Aarhus 2017 commission developed in collaboration with Hull, UK City of Culture 2017 and brought to Denmark by multi-award winning UK artists’ group Blast Theory. The project combined film, theatre audio and installation to create an unforgettable, immersive experience. Learn more from our profile of Blast Theory.
The Poetry on Film project is a Maltese initiative that merges the visual art of film with the country’s rich literature. A poem is adapted into a film which then premieres at the Malta Mediterranean Literature Film Festival in August. In this year’s edition, two poetry films will be screened: an adaptation of Maria Grech Ganado's poem Relazzjoni, by Nicky Aquilina and Lyanne Mifsud; and a film of Victor Fenech’s work Fuq Għoljiet Dingli by artist and academic, Trevor Borg (University of Leeds).
Introducing a passion for environmental and gender issues with new music
The artist and musician Anohni was the Aarhus 2017 Artist-in-Residence. Anohni’s words about her environmental advocacy, and courage to envision a future of positive change for women, made her a huge creative force during the second half of the year. Anohni recorded with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, developed new art in mixed media, presented the exhibition Future Feminism across the city and performed for one night in a unique live concert at Musikhuset Aarhus.
Protecting and celebrating the environment is important to Malta. Underground cisterns located beneath the Archbishop’s Palace in Valetta will be open during the Valletta Green Festival in April. These caves contain flowing, fresh running water which has been around since before Valletta’s construction. As with previous editions, the infiorata, which constructed from 80,000 potted plants, will also be decorating Pjazza San Ġorg and pays tribute to Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Anyone can be a dancer
In summer 2017 Wayne McGregor and his company of world-class dancers were in Aarhus to create a site-specific participatory dance work titled Lightlens. McGregor and his performers worked with more than two hundred local people of different ages, interests and cultures to create a commissioned work that celebrated the people and the city of Aarhus through dance, sound and costume.
Frisian Dance Days in Leeuwarden-Friesland from the beginning of the autumn season encourages us all to start dancing, or at least to watch dance. In October, the city becomes the vibrant heart of everything related to dance. Municipal theatre De Harmonie and pop temple Neushoorn form the heart of the first Frisian Dance Days, with extra appearances from the internationally acclaimed dance company Nederlands Dans Theater.
Respecting other points of view
Throughout the year Aarhus 2017 and Clement Kjersgaard presented The Hypotheticals. These debates saw an impressive line-up of seventeen contemporary thinkers (writers, activists, professors, businesspeople and journalists) come together for four exciting discussions about the future of democracy. Guests included the co-creator of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Birgitta Jonsdottir, chairman of Iceland's Pirate Party and the founder of the Danish satirical news website RokokoPosten.
Held in July, Valetta’s Utopian Nights comprises a series of public events which brings artists and thinkers into one space to discuss important social issues related to exile and conflict. The event will start when Nigerian contemporary artist Jelili Atiku presents a performance on ‘displacement’ around the migration monument situated in front of Castille Place.
Getting children to read, write and illustrate
Aarhus 2017 and the city’s library Dokk1 joined forces with the renowned Hay Festival to present the first International Children’s Literature Festival in Denmark. 39 of the best European children’s authors under the age of 40 were invited to write new works based on the theme ‘journey’. The Festival in Aarhus was the first produced by Hay Festival focusing solely on children’s literature and illustration and showcased the best of European children’s literature including great Danish children’s authors such as the much loved Kim Fupz Aakeson and British writers like Katherine Rundell.
In May the circus is coming to town. ‘Look what I can do’ is the theme of a strange and inventive Circus 2.0 project. Youngsters and children are challenged to work together, are dared to do things they've always dreamed of, and in doing so, discover their talents. In the coming school year, ‘Circus Adje’ travels through Leeuwarden in the context of Leeuwarden-Friesland 2018 to all the fifty primary schools located in the municipality! What’s not to like?