The southern part of Luxembourg and the directly adjoining area on the other side of the border in France have an industrial heritage which has made this region a place where people meet from all over Europe. North and South come together here; migratory movements from Italy and then Portugal have left behind their unmistakeable marks in the region’s development within a multicultural society, marks which continue to have their effect. Marks which will continue to impact on our future. The economic and social changes, the transition from an industrial society to a knowledge-based society, as is reflected in the University’s move to Belval, present our region with new tasks. Here is our country’s future and it is our job to shape this future together. From red earth to grey matter. A Capital of Culture provides the perfect opportunity for rethinking the great challenges for our future and for opening up far-reaching perspectives, and to reach well beyond the idea of culture in its narrower sense. Culture has to be rethought, reformulated and regarded as a core part of social development. Culture is a citizens’ right, which everyone helps to shape together. For this reason the application from Esch and south Luxembourg is first and foremost a project which aims to get the people involved – regardless of origin, age, education or gender.
The goal of making our Capital of Culture year into a project where everyone gets involved does not stand in isolation. Quite the opposite. It includes embedding the still recent University in its regional context. It includes us developing concepts which link the past with the future for these old industrial lands which so characterise our region. It includes liberating culture from its confinement in institutions and giving it greater prominence in public spaces. It includes making positive use of the digitisation of our society. It includes driving forward professionalisation in the cultural sector. It includes having many dreams – and sharing them.
The contradictions which are a significant feature of our country are European in their very core. “United in diversity”, as we keep hearing, is a wonderful motto, and one at which we must keep working away. This is what we experience every day in the south of Luxembourg. However, we are convinced of the need not only to build our past on this motto, but above all to build our future on it.
Because in all these contradictions, areas of tension and challenges lies an immense potential for creativity that should be encouraged. For this reason we want to bring culture to the very heart of our society and draw upon its cross-cutting power.
It is hard to think of any region in Europe, where we might get a better and clearer sense of a possible future for our continent than here in Esch and southern Luxembourg. It was here that the process of European integration was developed within the European Coal and Steel Community against the background of what had happened during the War. It was here that this process fell on the most fertile ground possible since it found an ideal breeding ground here in the mixing of cultures and mentalities.
At the present time, with a Europe in crisis, a Europe where nationalism masquerades as the “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, for us to take a positive stance for Europe’s development in the future we need to do two things at once: rediscover the fundamental values of European integration and blend them into a new vision for Europe. REMIXING EUROPE.
With this application, we are deliberately adopting a standpoint to oppose the proliferation of xenophobia and cultural exclusion and segregation that we are once again witnessing in more and more parts of Europe and the world. For we maintain that Europe’s future lies in the most radical possible mixing of its culture with cultures from everywhere else. And to make this point there is hardly anywhere better placed than southern Luxembourg – the former industrial heartland of a region with over 120 different nationalities.
CULTURE REMIX is our principle and our strategy at the same time.
By saying that mixing cultures is the right solution for shifting culture, we are making a political statement which has its roots in its region. Conceptually, Esch is then Europe’s middle point: founded on coal and steel, located in an industrial landscape shaped by men. Where, if not here, with this insight connecting the past to the future, can we find answers to these questions: What do we (still) need Europe for? Where do we stand with regard to globalisation? Is there any chance of achieving political agreement and should it stretch as far as the Urals?
The south of Luxembourg has every reason to invest in improving its inhabitants’ living conditions. Our region’s future has just begun. Not only at the university. With the digital revolution and the globalisation that comes with it, the regions are confronted by completely new challenges. All of a sudden, something that starts off small can now have such a universal impact that this is breathtaking. A tiny idea can move mountains. Culture should not only be offering people support with this, culture is also the space where the latest technologies and investments can find creative expression. The Capital of Culture year recognises the opportunity here for people to take a direct part in giving creative expression to their ideas and projects and by doing so they will not only fulfil their potential but discover it too – as well as bringing to life new initiatives in the economic field.
When it comes to professionalising the cultural sector, better education is the cornerstone. Our horizon goes from the preschool and school stage to include a whole package of measures for further education, culminating in a long-term vision of an intercultural art academy.
The location’s attractiveness has to be boosted through immediate changes to the legal framework in order to create new incentives to attract investment in the creative industries and new technologies. They should promote the process of transition to a knowledge-based society – a transition which should take place in balance with the region’s gender-specific and ecological development. The enormous potential for tourism that comes with a Capital of Culture year will put these plans in their entirety to the test.
The south of Luxembourg can look back on a history which continues almost seamlessly to the French side of the border. Heavy industry did not just give people food and work. It brought people together; they were part of the fabric of a rigidly organised industrial society that was subdivided into work and leisure ‒ from layer/shift to layer/shift. The steel crisis heralded the end of this sense of belonging. The transition to a knowledge-based society is still at an early stage. Culture is in a position to support the younger generations through this transition and make a lasting contribution towards creating a new sense of belonging together that is grounded in the values shared within our region’s area. Shaping this area is a key task and the Capital of Culture year aims to encourage each and every one of us to get onboard.
The south of Luxembourg has a great abundance of free, unused open space. Not just old industrial land but also sites, locations, landscapes and river courses which can no longer be recognised as such or which are not even identifiable. No doubt one reason for this lies in the historical industrial education in the settlement structures and the many wounds that industry inflicted on the landscape. If you then add to this the immense social diversification within the structure of society, a highly complex patchwork emerges of disparate topological spaces.
So it is not enough to liberate art from its isolation in cultural institutions and set it loose in public spaces. It is not enough to give our landscape’s hidden treasures new visibility and reveal them by exploiting them for artistic ends. The Capital of Culture year provides an opportunity for an overarching global concept for the environment and urban planning, which in the future has to become an integral part of an effective cultural development plan for our region.