As of 1 January, Aarhus and Pafos will hold the title of European Capital of Culture. The cultural programme will officially begin on 21 January in Aarhus. The opening ceremony for Pafos 2017 will take place on 28 January with Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, and Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus [tbc]. Commissioner Tibor Navracsics said: "The title of European Capital of Culture is a unique opportunity to bring communities together through culture and to foster strong local, European and international partnerships for the future. I wish Aarhus and Pafos every success for the coming year.“ Both cities have come up withprogrammes which showcase centuries of culture while using different art forms to address the socio-economic problems facing Europe today.
'Rethink' is the central theme of Aarhus 2017. The Danish city will show how arts, culture and the creative sector can help us to re-think and shape our basic social, urban, cultural and economic patterns of behaviour and find new solutions to common challenges. A rooftop Viking saga performance, an art exhibition stretching across the city and the coastline, a "Creativity World Forum" and an international children's literary festival are just some of the many events which will bridge the past with creative ideas for the present and future.
Aarhus 2017 will launch its cultural programme with children at the heart of the celebrations. Hundreds of children from the Central Denmark region will gather in Aarhus to imagine the future in a series of events entitled "Land of Wishes". As night falls during the opening ceremony, a spectacular show filled with pageantry, Viking spirits and gods in the sky will mark the start of the city's year as European Capital of Culture.
'Linking Continents, Bridging Cultures' is the common thread running through hundreds of events organised by Pafos 2017. The first Cypriot city to host a European Capital of Culture embraces its experiences of multiculturalism and its geographical proximity to the Middle East and North Africa to strengthen relations between countries and cultures. Pafos is set to become an immense open stage, an 'Open Air Factory', where a tradition of thousands of years of cultural life in open spaces meets contemporary ways of creating, thinkingand living.
The opening ceremony for Pafos 2017 is inspired by one of the themes for the year's cultural programme: 'Myth and Religion'. New life will be given to the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea and other narratives from the history of Pafos in a unique spectacle of music and dance. During the opening weekend on 28-29 January, the city will be converted into an Open Air Factory with numerous shows and artistic performances.
Initiated in 1985 by the then Greek Minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri, the European Capital of Culture is one of the most high-profile cultural initiatives in Europe. The cities are selected on the basis of a cultural programme that must have a strong European dimension, foster the participation and active involvement of the city's inhabitants and contribute to the long-term development of the city.
It is also an excellent opportunity for the cities to change their image, put themselves on the world map, attract more tourists and rethink their own development through culture.
The title has a long-term impact, not only on culture but also in social and economic terms, both for the city and for the surrounding region. For example, a study has shown that the number of tourists visiting a European Capital of Culture for at least one night increased by 12% on average compared with the year before the city held the title.
In 2016, Wroclaw in Poland and San Sebastian in Spain were European Capitals of Culture. Following Aarhus and Pafos in 2017, the future European Capitals of Culture will be Valletta (Malta) and Leeuwarden (Netherlands) in 2018, Plovdiv (Bulgaria) and Matera (Italy) in 2019 and Rijeka (Croatia) and Galway (Ireland) in 2020. Timisoara (Romania), Elefsina (Greece) and Novi Sad (Serbia, candidate country) were recently recommended to become the three European Capitals of Culture 2021 and are awaiting their official nomination by the relevant authorities.
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