A press conference was held at the Polish Theatre on 26 September to present the content of the preselection 'bidbook' for Bielsko-Biała as a candidate city for the European Capital of Culture 2029. The Bidbook for the City of Weaves is now available online, in both Polish and English, on bb2029.com. The meeting, attended by a sign language interpreter, was also broadcast online.
The conference began with President of the City Jarosław Klimaszewski expressing his thoughts on the project.
The work put into the Bidbook is founded on the cultural potential of our city, but it is not limited to just this, because culture is entwined with business and digitisation. Two words are constantly interwoven in this document - weaves and wellbeing. The weaves originate from our textile traditions, but we have also incorporated them into all the cultural activities in our city, which have thrived for years and which are intertwined; they also define the identity of our city. The Bidbook contains a vision of the future of Bielsko-Biała as a city of culture. We are at a stage of development now where our future largely depends on the development of culture. We are growing economically, and culture is the key to further success, to making people want to live and settle here. Thanks to technology, people can basically work anywhere on Earth, but through our candidacy for the title of European Capital of Culture, we want to encourage them to make Bielsko-Biała their workplace. And this process has already begun – said the President.
If it were not for you, the Policy Council and residents, we wouldn't have what we have today. I am very grateful for that. From what I gather, our model of engagement was the most developed of all those submitted by other candidate Polish cities. We are obviously in a competition, but it seems to me that we are already winners because certain processes have been put in motion, and the people who have come together for this project have made new connections with each other. We have networked our city in terms of culture – no one can take that away from us. I am very proud of this, and I am very pleased with how it has turned out. Today, we present our Bidbook to the world, and we await the invitation from the European it Commission to present it and for feedback – concluded the mayor.
The programmes of European Capitals of Culture incorporate attempts to deal with the existing dominant problems common to all Europeans, regardless of where they live. Threats from climate change are a very important issue. Thanks to its location and proximity to the mountains, Bielsko-Biała is in a quite comfortable situation, which does not mean that we do not feel an obligation to develop good habits. We want to take care of our river, something that was highlighted by residents when submitting their ECoC projects, as well as care for the biodiversity of the region. The bid submitted by the City of Weaves includes many ideas for the use of modern technology and artificial intelligence, offering an opportunity not only to design the future, but also to reference our heritage. Following further archaeological research, the Abandoned Town project will present the history of the forerunner of our city in the form of a multimedia exhibition. Thanks to VR and AR we will be
able to reconstruct the appearance of the former fortified settlement and show what life was like there in the past. The bidbook also tells us of the Master Craftsmen project, being a nod to tradition. It is a response to mass production that is harmful to our environment and contributes to the disappearance of craft skills, a phenomenon we know as dying professions. It is an incentive to discover the potential of crafts, to recognise the benefits of creative activity, and to develop practical skills. To begin with, long-term regular workshops dedicated to theatre crafts are planned. These may eventually evolve into a school of theatre crafts. The Bielsko-Biała master craftsmen of puppetry, wig-making, carpentry and other skills will teach people from all over the world how to create various elements associated with the theatre. The role of education is highlighted in the bidbook in several places, both in the realms of culture - workshops, discussions, conferences open to residents, with a particular emphasis on children and teenagers – but also in the creation of a programme for improving the skillsets of staff within the cultural sector run by local government and also by independent bodies. There are no plans to build additional infrastructure beyond that which is already provided for in the city's development plans to implement the scheduled artistic agenda. These plans include Pedanteria, a complex of multifunctional cultural space, and a new base for the Banialuka Puppet Theatre.
What lies ahead?
Now the bidbooks of candidate cities will be assessed by a panel of independent experts, which consists of ten people appointed by the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions, as well as two specialists appointed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. At the end of October, there will be a pre-selection meeting and competition interviews with representatives of the candidate cities. The panel of experts will agree on a short list of cities selected for the next stage - the final selection, tentatively scheduled for mid-2024. Other Polish candidates for the ECoC title are: Bydgoszcz, Jastrzębie-Zdrój, Katowice, Kielce, Kołobrzeg, Lublin, Opole, Płock, Pszczyna, Rzeszów and Toruń, twelve cities in total.