A tour through Europe: Luxembourg 2007


Luxembourg and Greater Region was European Capital of Culture (ECoC) in 2007, at the same time with the Romanian city Sibiu. Luxembourg is located on the cultural divide between Romance Europe and Germanic Europe, and so it has been heavily influenced by both cultures, which can also be seen in the official languages, which are French, German and Luxembourgish. Luxembourg was founded in 963 and became a Grand Duchy in 1815, and nowadays it is home to many EU institutions and international businesses, especially banks. The population of Luxembourg is over 600,000, and the country’s income per capita is one of the highest in the world. Many workers cross the border every day from Germany, France and Belgium, as 44% of the jobs in the Grand Duchy are done by cross-border workers. In 2007, 42% of the population was foreign by nationality. Luxembourg is one of the five regions of the Grande Région (GR), which is a territory that also includes Wallonia in Belgium, Lorraine in France, as well as Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland in Germany, and is home to around 10 million people. For around half a century the GR has been significant in terms of political cooperation between the territories, especially in terms of common economic interests.

In 2007 Luxembourg became the only city to have held the ECoC title on two occasions, as it first held the title in 1995. Many people felt that before 1995 Luxembourg’s cultural sector was lacking facilities and provision, and that young local artists usually went abroad to study. However, the cultural sector developed massively between 1995 and 2007, as the cultural infrastructure was renovated, or new infrastructure was built with investments totaling over half a billion euros. Despite these changes, many cultural stakeholders felt that Luxembourg’s cultural offering did not answer the needs and interests of non-nationals and youth, which is why it was decided that the 2007 ECoC would focus on contemporary forms of culture, to make the programme more appealing for young people. Luxembourg also wanted to create a cross-border cultural programme to create cohesion between the five territories as well as promote the image of the “Greater Luxembourg Region”. Over half of the 584 projects in the culture programme took place in Luxembourg, and 139 projects, around a quarter of the total amount, were cross-border projects that took place in two or more territories. The French and German areas also organized many projects in their regions, and the cooperation with the other ECoC, Sibiu, was also notable, as there were many shared projects between them and Luxembourg. None of the projects took place solely in Wallonia, the Belgian territory of the GR.

It is estimated that the ECoC generated 56M€ of direct additional visitor expenditure, which can be considered a good figure when compared to the estimated range of the ECoCs during the years 1995-2003, which was 10M€-37,5M€. Some of the most notable legacies of the ECoC include i) the continuation of some cultural activities and new cultural facilities that stayed in operation; ii) the formation of a new operational structure in Luxembourg to continue implementing its youth programme; iii) continued cross-border cooperation between cultural authorities and between cultural operators themselves. Indeed, the creation of the informal links between the cultural operators and the strengthening of the administrative infrastructure for cross-border cultural collaboration can be considered as the biggest successes of the Luxembourg and GR ECoC. Luxembourg also managed to harness the creative and artistic potential of the region, particularly focusing on the avant-garde aspects, and achieved their goal of drawing more young people to participate in cultural activities. In conclusion, the 2007 ECoC built on the progress made during Luxembourg’s 1995 ECoC by developing the cultural scene to accommodate audiences that previously had been largely absent or under-represented in the cultural sector.



Ex-post Evaluation of 2007 & 2008 European Capitals of Culture: Final Report

Image: djedj, pixabay.com

Oulu2026 Cultural Personality: Anna Anttonen


Anna Anttonen is a born and bred Ouluian whose family roots are in South Ostrobothnia. “I live in Kastelli with my family in my childhood home, which we bought from my parents a little under a decade ago. As a young adult I also settled in Tuira, Raksila, the city center and Värttö. So I progressed over three kilometers in life, before returning to the beginning!”

Anna works at the Cultural Centre Valve as the main teacher of literary art and as the artistic leader of the Lumotut sanat – lasten ja nuorten sanataideviikot (Enchanted Words – children and youth’s literary art weeks). Music is also close to Anna’s heart: During compulsory education, Anna was in a class where music was emphasized, and now, as a freelancer, she sings and makes songs. Her hobbies are also strongly related to Oulu’s cultural field: Anna sings in the Sofia Magdalena chamber choir and practices her dance moves in the Vilikkaan Hipasu youth club.


How does your life look like and feel now, during these exceptional times?

A bit drowsy and groggy November gloom. Towards the end of a fierce and exceptional year tiredness has kicked in a bit, but the autumn has also been full of joy and significance. After the total lockdown of last spring every work-, school-, kindergarten- and hobby week that has been somewhat normal has felt like a gift. It has been pure luxury to have been able to teach face to face and to have been able to meet my hobby families, children and youth physically.


How does Oulu look like through your eyes right now?

Contradictory. We have an abundance of great and motivated professionals and amateurs in the fields of art and culture. For a large group of people, the effects of culture for wellbeing and for the appeal and maintenance of the city are obvious and important. At the same time some of the policymakers see culture first and foremost as an extra expense, which is horribly sad.

Oulu is bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture (ECoC). What makes our region the best candidate for the title?

There is skill, desire and actors! But there is also a lot of work to be done so that culture and art can become even more important parts of our individual and communal identities.

I am thrilled that one of the main focus areas in the European Capital of Culture programme is children and youth’s culture. Now we need to brainstorm on a large scale and plan the headquarters for Oulu’s children’s culture center: a super fun place for artistic adventures, having a good time, reading, empathizing – and for doing and coming up with solutions on your own!


Send your regards to the Oulu of 2026, when we are the European Capital of Culture

Let’s celebrate and continue – together! It’s time to culminate the long journey from the dream to the European Capital of Culture and to weave the great things of the big project permanently as a part of Oulu and the Ouluian identity.

Oulu2026 Cultural Personality: Johannes Gustavsson


Johannes Gustavsson is the Principal Conductor of the Oulu Symphony Orchestra. His term as a Principal Conductor started in autumn 2013, but already during autumn he worked as an artistic partner of the orchestra. He lives in Arvika in Sweden, but visits Oulu several times during the concert year.


Johannes, how does your life look like and feel now, during these exceptional times?

“At the moment my life is quite different than normally. The year has included a lot of re-planning and re-scheduling of repertoires, certainly at least three times more than normal. On the other hand, the sudden stop during spring allowed the opportunity to spend more time at home. In that respect, a little break was good. However, I’m happy that I was able to come to Finland now, we can perform concerts again and people come to listen to them. Despite the situation and safety distances people need cultural experiences.”


How does Oulu look like through your eyes right now?

“I think it’s great that, during these times, culture is supported on a general level, so that its level is maintained and improved. A strong local and regional culture are important things, and these are present in Oulu.”


Oulu is bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture (ECoC). What makes our region the best candidate for the title?

“Oulu has a very peculiar culture and cultural climate. Also, the neighbouring regions add to it with forests, the sea and with their own regional culture. It’s important to emphasize and strengthen that which Oulu already has. There is a great variety of music here: different orchestras, festivals, amateurs and education. This is something that Oulu can be very proud of!”


Send your regards to the Oulu of 2026, when we are the European Capital of Culture.

“Congratulations! Keep up the good work and make sure that, in addition to getting to enjoy all the international coverage that comes along with being the European Capital of Culture (ECoC), Oulu and the nearby regions develop and become stronger due to the ECoC.”


Photo: Harri Tarvainen

A tour through Europe: Sibiu 2007


Sibiu was European Capital of Culture in 2007 together with Luxembourg. It’s an ancient city located at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in central Romania and has a population of around 170,000. It was founded in the 1100s by Germanic settlers who had roots in the West Rhine. Sibiu remained the center of the Transylvanian Saxon community until the Second World War. However, the war, and later the end of communism in 1989, caused a massive emigration of the Germanic population. Also, the infrastructure of the city deteriorated during the communist era. However, in recent years Sibiu has repaired its infrastructure and placed more emphasis on the promotion of its German roots. Lately, the city’s economy has grown because of tourism and foreign investment, especially from German companies. Sibiu has maintained its position as a fundamental regional center for administration, industry and services.

Sibiu is a significant city especially in terms of religion, culture and learning. The city is a Metropolitan seat of the Romanian Orthodox Church, hosts two national cultural institutions – the Radu Stanca National Theatre and Brukenthal National Museum – and is home to around 30,000 university students. Even before Sibiu received the title of European Capital of Culture (ECoC) in 2007 there was plenty of cultural activity in the city that attracted both domestic and overseas tourists. Examples of internationally known events in Sibiu include its Jazz and Theatre Festivals. Furthermore, the State Philharmonic Orchestra, based at the Thalia Hall, is also located in Sibiu, as is the Gong Theatre, which exhibits mime, puppetry and innovative shows for children and youth.

Sibiu was the first city from a non-EU country to receive the ECoC title in the 21st century, although Romania did join the EU on 1st of January 2007, the same day Sibiu’s ECoC year started. The most significant motivators for Sibiu’s application were the will to make the city more known in Europe and the desire to further develop the cultural sector of the city. Sibiu’s ECoC programme consisted of 867 projects, which were attended by over one million people. The culture programme’s theme was “city of culture. city of cultures”, and the main idea was that of interaction and cooperation between different cultures, such as between Romanian and Germanic cultures. An integral aspect of the programme was utilizing the whole city center as a stage for cultural events. This resulted in an increase in cultural participation and in media interest towards the programme. Also, of note was Sibiu’s collaboration with Luxembourg, as the ECoC programme included 48 joint projects with them. A symbolic gesture of Luxembourg’s importance to the project was the re-naming of the building that hosted the Sibiu co-ordination team as “Luxembourg House”.

Sibiu spent 17,2M€ on the ECoC, the two biggest funders being the City Council and the Ministry of Culture, who together provided roughly three quarters of the total budget. The Sibiu final report states that the ECoC increased the turnover of key economic sectors related to the ECoC by 9,5% overall, with tourist operators securing the highest increase (13,7%). According to Richards and Rotariu the number of overnight stays increased by 36% compared with the same period in 2005. Furthermore, nearly a third of the visitors in Richards and Rotariu’s survey identified the ECoC as the reason for their arrival in Sibiu, which suggests that the advertisement of the ECoC had been rather successful.

Participants were generally very satisfied with the culture programme, as those interviewed rated it 8,6/10 on average. The interviewees also felt that the ECoC had increased Sibiu’s vibrancy and developed the cultural sector, as well as led to a clear increase in cultural participation. Evidence of this is the increased popularity of the Radu Stanca Theatre, as they have significantly increased ticket sales post-ECoC, in 2008 and 2009. Another major cultural development was the establishment of a new ballet company in Sibiu. Furthermore, some events created for the ECoC have remained active post-ECoC, such as the Transylvania Film Festival and the Georgia Anesco classical music festival. Moreover, 65% of the locals felt that the culture programme had increased the social cohesion of Sibiu.

Surveys suggest that the ECoC changed Europeans’ view of Sibiu. In 2006 0,5% of respondents around Europe answering to a survey rated Sibiu among the top 5 European cultural destinations. During the title year the figure was 3,5%. Sibiu’s promotion of the European dimension was seen during the title year in its collaboration with other European countries, as 73 ECoC projects were collaborations with other EU member states. Additionally, there were six projects with other countries (Israel, Cuba, Croatia and Serbia). Sibiu didn’t leave the collaborations just for the title year though, but continued to increase international cooperation post-ECoC, evidence of which is the 30% increase from 2007 to 2008 in events organized together with other European cultural operators.

As a long-lasting benefit, the ECoC gave the cultural operators experience and skills that they can use in the future when organizing cultural activity in Sibiu and elsewhere. Finally, the culture programme reportedly changed many locals’ mindsets towards culture, as they began seeing it as a positive and useful thing instead of an irrelevant waste of money. The evidence suggests that Sibiu achieved its main goals of increasing its visibility in Europe and of developing its cultural sector. The ECoC can therefore be rated to have been successful and to have provided Sibiu with a solid platform on top of which to keep building the cultural future of the city.



Oulu2026 Cultural Personality: Kai Latvalehto


Kai Latvalehto is known from the band Aknestik and from the documentary film Laulu koti-ikävästä (Finnish Blood Swedish Heart). He defended his doctoral thesis two years ago on the topic of Sweden-Finnish cultural identity. As a logical continuation from this Kai established the Sweden-Finnish Cultural Embassy in Oulu at 2019. Now he is in charge of the Kripa project at KulttuuriKauppila in Ii, for creating an international artist residence network.


How does your life look like and feel now, during these exceptional times?

“These are ferocious times. This is, however, the right time to sharpen the pencils and to get prepared for a future which won’t resemble the past. Luckily the golden 1980s will not return, but neither will the beginning of the millennium. There is potential in building a more sustainable future, Nordic cooperation, in the creation of a positive northern culture and communality.”


How does Oulu look like through your eyes right now?

“Referring to the previous point, Oulu is indisputably the capital of Northern Finland, and perhaps of the entire northern region of the Nordic countries (NB not Scandinavia). We have throughout history managed to follow the times and always hit the ground running. We have been forerunners during the eras of tar, industrialization and technology, despite our distant geographical location.


Oulu is bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture (ECoC). What makes our region the best candidate for the title?

“The Oulu2026 premiss for the necessity for a cultural climate change has already proven its prophetic value Our modern northern way of life, the spine of a close-knit connection with nature and fresh cultural thinking, can give Europe as much as Europe can give us.”


Send your regards to the Oulu of 2026, when we are the European Capital of Culture.

“This is only the beginning! Oulu as the “paskakaupunni” is the best city!”


Photo: Inka Hyvönen

Oulu2026 Cultural Personality: Blair Stevenson

Originally from Canada, Blair Stevenson has lived and worked in Oulu on-and-off for 20 years. Oulu is Blair´s home along with his wife and 16 year old son.

Blair´s professional background is as an educator and entrepreneur. Currently, he works as a principal lecturer in the Department of Media and Performing Arts at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences. For the last year, he has also been providing part-time support for the Museum and Science Center Luuppi and the Oulu 2026 bidding team.


Blair, how does your life look like and feel now, during these exceptional times?

“I believe that the global Coronavirus situation has forced us to re-evaluate our lifestyles and re-examine what is important to us. Now more than ever, we need to make the effort to stay connected with family and friends and take care of the well-being of ourselves, our families and our communities.”


How does Oulu look like through your eyes right now?

“Oulu has been a very resilient city and has been a great place to raise a family. I still see it as a growth destination for young families and businesses. Ultimately, I believe that Oulu is on the cusp of even greater things.”


Oulu is bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture (ECoC). What makes our region the best candidate for the title?

“Oulu will be a fantastic European Capital of Culture, not only because of the ideas and people here, but because I believe that there is a very special northern Finland approach to life which we can demonstrate and share with the rest of Europe. I expect Oulu’s long history and globally recognized expertise in the field of technology to be leveraged into developing internationally-minded innovations and exceptional art and cultural events that both local people and all Europeans will enjoy.”


Send your regards to the Oulu of 2026, when we are the European Capital of Culture

“Oulu in 2026 will be an incredible place to explore new ways to see ourselves as co-creators of culture and as citizens of Oulu, Finland, Europe and the world!”