European Capital of Culture - a good harvest in the first three months

Press conference in Ljubljana. Photo: MP Produkcija and Mediaspeed

April 2012

The first quarter of Maribor’s year as the European Capital of Culture has already passed. The project is alive and well and attracting a large audience.

The Director-General of the Maribor 2012 Public Institute, Dr Suzana Žilič Fišer, and the Programme Director, Mitja Čander, modestly assessed the events of the first three months. In this period, the cultural project had attracted more than 250 foreign journalists, who had published several excellent reports and photo articles, so Maribor had received more than the routine advertising expected. At the information points in Ljubljana and Maribor, turnout and public interest has been good and is still on the rise.

There were successful promotions in Zagreb, Graz and Trieste, and, further afield, in Vienna, Berlin, Paris and London. The project is attracting the attention of both Slovenian and foreign audiences, and with warmer weather, events will move outdoors, which will significantly increase accessibility and give the city a whole new experience that practically every resident will be able to enjoy. The events of the Town Keys programme, which revives the cultural tradition of the place, have really started to come to life, and the Urban Furrows programme - a social cohesion programme aimed at integrating through their everyday work people who are otherwise not included in any other cultural events - will be intensified in the summer. Vegetable gardening, the arrangement of urban spaces in residential and other areas, new social activities and the discovery of new elements in places where people live might be considered the most innovative parts of this huge project.

Outstanding artistic achievements

2Cellos, concert. Photo: Goran Blagajac, Mediaspeed; source: EPK Maribor

Mitja Čander was, of course, most excited about the outstanding artistic achievements, which were probably more numerous in the first three months than Maribor has seen in the previous twenty years. The Director particularly emphasised the splendid concert by the pianist Ivo Pogorelić with the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, the sold-out concert by 2 Cellos, the excellent attendance and high media coverage of New Burlesque Cabaret, and the great opera and theatre productions by Tomaž Pandur and Uroš Lajovic, which are described elsewhere in this magazine. The LifeTouch programme, which re-establishes the role of the Internet, not only as a mediator of events, but as a co-creator, has also closely involved a wide audience through mobile telephone networks. Smartphones already use the Maribor 2012 application, which takes the user virtually to the heart of the cultural events.

Leading global intellectuals received most attention from the wider Slovenian public

French-Bulgarian philosopher Tzvetan Todorov. Photo: Miha Sagadin, source:

Although somewhat unexpectedly, Project Twelve, which brings a leading global intellectual to Maribor each month, has received most attention from the wider Slovenian public. We have seen three so far: the first was the art theorist Boris Groys, followed by the French-Bulgarian philosopher Tzvetan Todorov and Hans Magnus Enzensberger. All great people! Slovenia could listen to their lectures, and their reflections were even more fully presented in the most important Slovenian newspapers and even on national television, which after a long time have shown that they are able to devote attention to people and events that really matter. In this time of a certain social lethargy, which is most strongly marked by the economic crisis, with prevailing attempts to save neoliberal capitalism on the old, wasted foundations, the insightful reflection of Maribor’s guests might be the best thing that has happened to Slovenians recently. And there are still nine more guests to go.

Text by Jože Osterman, Sinfo, April 2012