Countryside Metropolis

Parts of Sønderborg are ramping up for the second and final “exam” where it will be decided whether it is Sønderborg or Århus that will be the Danish Culture Capital in 2017.

Countryside Metropolis - the book

I find it really exciting and inspiring that a relatively small place as Sønderborg is aiming high and trying to take on the big task of becoming a Culture Capital for a year.

Countryside Metropolis
One of the headlines of Sønderborg’s candidacy is Towards a Countryside Metropolis. This was also the title of the application book for the first round in the application process. This oxymoron covers the big ambition of making the small-town place have the diversity, guts and umpf of a metropolis. Although Sonderborg will never be able to compete with proper metropolises as Hamburg and Copenhagen it can still aspire to be more. I’ve heard Sue McCauley, the artistic director of Sønderborg 2017, describe Countryside Metropolis as “a state of mind”. Thinking and working towards making Sønderborg a place where you can make things happen if you have the passion and drive for it.

The candidacy is not just for the city of Sønderborg but the whole region of Danish Sønderjylland and German Schleswig, or basically the old Duchy of Schleswig. So in that sense the aim is to make the whole region north and south of the border, including the countryside take part in the project of coming together through culture. A great idea that I think might be hard to achieve.

The city’s candidacy has been in the works years before we moved to Sonderborg and we don’t know that many people yet but it seems that people here are starting to warm to the idea. At least the ones we come across.

However in the local media there are almost every week Letters to the Editor where people are asking how the politicians can support the spendings on this culture project with one hand while they are closing schools and making deep cuts to core tasks with the other hand. Copenhagen was the Culture Capital back in ’96 and once the dust had settled the legacy of it seemed to have been that “Never have so many performance artists been supported for so long”. That is the worst that could happen here that the event makes a small blip without any lasting effect. Nevertheless, it seems as though the project is very focussed on creating lasting changes in the landscape of culture and trying to get the locals heavily involved in the project.

Have a look
If you are interested in reading more about the project the first application (which is the size of a coffee table book) is available in both Danish, English and German. And I think you will be able to get a copy if you go talk to the office of S2017.

The deadline for a more detailed proposal to decide whether it will be Aarhus or Sønderborg that will host Denmark’s bid in 2017 is mid-April. We wish the city best of luck from here.

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