As of 1 January, Bulgaria’s Plovdiv and Matera in Italy are joint European Capitals of Culture for 2019, promoting cultural development and tourism in both cities.
The European Capital of Culture initiative, which began in 1985, selects cities based on ongoing and future cultural programmes which must have a strong European dimension. Cities selected as Capitals of Culture – such as Valletta (Malta) and Leeuwarden (Netherlands) in 2018, Plovdiv and Matera in 2019 and Rijeka (Croatia) and Galway (Ireland) in 2020 – are expected to promote local participation in cultural events, boost their international image and develop socially and economically.
The official Capital of Culture opening ceremonies will be held on 12 January in Plovdiv, the first Bulgarian city to hold the title; and 19 January in Matera. Capital of Culture activities in Plovdiv, working under the motto “Together”, will be focused around the city’s history and cultural heritage; while Matera’s programme will take the motto “Open Future” and will focus on innovative collaboration and social and cultural inclusion. Events in both Plovdiv and Matera will feature partnerships and joint enterprises with nearby cities and local communities: Plovdiv will host joint theatre productions with neighbouring Western Balkan groups; while Matera will produce the first open air performance of the opera Cavalleria Rusticana, with the cooperation of the Naples opera house Teatro San Carlo.
Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: “The programmes for Plovdiv and Matera show how these cities envisage both their own future and that of Europe, whilst celebrating their extraordinary centuries-old heritage. The European Capital of Culture initiative brings people together and highlights the role of culture in building a European identity. Both cities will help ensure a long-term impact of last year’s successful European Year of Cultural Heritage, which has demonstrated how culture can transform our cities and regions for the better. I wish Plovdiv and Matera every success in the coming year.”