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What is the European Capital of Culture?

The European Capital of Culture is one of the largest projects relating to
culture undertaken by the European Union. This title has been awarded since
1985, the winner originally being termed the European City of Culture. The ECoC,
with support from the European Union, makes culture, this key component of life
in European cities, into a year-long celebration.

Each year the ECoC programme celebrates Europe's rich cultural heritage by focusing
on the history, cultural life and artistic legacy of individual towns or cities
and their regions. It is also an opportunity to develop the given town or city
and its region through cultural activities.

In 2024 the spotlight will be on Bad Ischl in Austria, Bodø in Norway and
Tartu in Estonia. European Capitals of Culture do not have to be large, busy
cities or towns. This year the title was awarded to three of the smallest towns
since the programme began.

In 2029 one Polish and one Swedish town or city will become a European
Capital of Culture. To date only two Polish cities have celebrated winning the
title: Kraków in 2000 and Wrocław in 2016.

Why are we bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture?

The challenges faced by Bielsko-Biała today largely
reflect what is going on globally. Therefore the City of Weaves’ artistic agenda
draws attention to the most important themes regarding Europe and
Bielsko-Biała. We want to implement new solutions, learn together, share good
practices, and, in doing so, create the city of our aspirations.

We want EVERYONE to feel at peace and to feel safe in
Bielsko-Biała regardless of age, origin, views or sexual orientation; so that through
empathy, shaped by culture and art, we respect each other more and build social
capital based on bonds of trust and cooperation.

This is an extraordinary opportunity for us, both to
celebrate the art of our city and to use culture as a tool for social

Awarding Bielsko-Biała the title of European Capital
of Culture would mean a number of lasting benefits for the city. The positive consequences
of ECoC activities will be felt in the areas of culture, education, social
relations and economy. They will also have an effect on the material domain.


Culture is intended to be a way in which to engage
residents in activities for the benefit of the city and to give them a sense of
agency. The involvement of every single resident in cultural projects could turn
out to be a remedy for loneliness, depression or burnout, and also for the pressing
issue of mental crisis affecting children and young people today.

The ECoC also means money for Bielsko-Biała. The
Ministry of Culture has indicated that the city awarded the title of European
Capital of Culture 2029 will receive 100,000,000 PLN towards its projects. Funding
from the European Union and the private sector can also be expected.

What does the selection process look like?

The official process of applying for the title of European Capital of
Culture takes two years. In the first year we formulated a basic proposal in
the form of a ‘bidbook’ which contained responses to the most important
questions posed: the contribution to the long-term strategy of cultural
development in the city; proposal of cultural and artistic events; the European
dimension; the involvement of our residents in creating the bid, its
implementation and reaching new audiences; management; all this taking into
account financial and implementation prospects.

A 60-page bidbook was submitted on 15 September 2023. We then presented
Bielsko-Biała's bid during a meeting and interview with twelve experts, two
from Poland and ten from Europe. Following this meeting the expert committee announced
a list of cities moving onto the next stage of the competition. We were of the
firm belief that we would be in this group and we were right. Together with
Katowice, Lublin and Kołobrzeg we are one of the four cities in the final. We
will present the final version of our 100-page bidbook to the committee by
mid-September 2024. We will battle one last time during this final presentation
before experts for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2029.

Who else is competing?

The following cities announced that they would be competing for the title
of European Capital of Culture 2029:

Bielsko-Biała, Bydgoszcz, Jastrzębie-Zdrój,
Katowice, Kielce, Kołobrzeg, Lublin, Opole, Płock, Pszczyna, Rzeszów and Toruń.
The decision of the
committee of experts was that Bielsko-Biała, Katowice, Lublin and Kołobrzeg would
advance to the second and final stage.

Is our city not too small?

Looking back at the history of the European Capitals of Culture programme,
the title has been awarded to both much larger and much smaller towns and cities,
some with often fewer than 100,000 inhabitants. The smallest of these include Bad
Ischl in Austria with fewer than 15,000 inhabitants, Matera in Italy with
60,000 inhabitants, and Weimar in Germany with a population of 65,000.
Moreover, a trend can be spotted whereby it is the smaller and medium-sized
cities that are more likely to be appreciated by the committee of experts.

What if we don't win?

We are competing because we believe that Bielsko-Biała can win. Even if we
do not win, we know from the experience of Žilina and other towns and cities,
where despite their best efforts they were not awarded the title, that the very
process of trying has had a great impact on the development of the town or city
and has improved the quality of life there. Preparation of the first stage bidbook
already helped us better understand the expectations of residents and to
analyse the most important challenges faced by our city. To this end, we were
able to integrate artistic circles and cultural institutions, to hold meetings
with business representatives, with residents with special needs and with groups
on the margins of society. Such meetings will continue. We hope that the young
people who joined these discussions will be intent on actively co-creating the
feeling of WELLBEING in our city. We have established international contacts which
we certainly want to further maintain by participating in international
projects and programmes. In the open call for ideas for projects under the
ECoC, over 100 applications were received and almost as many were submitted by
members of the Programme Council and Tasking Team. We are already implementing
some of the ideas in prototype form, and others we plan to implement regardless
of whether we become the European Capital of Culture or not.

How much does it all cost?

Participation in the ECoC generates certain costs because the preparation
of the bid itself requires organisation of workshops, consultations and expert
opinions. In addition there are the costs of translation, promotion and operating
expenses. However, all of these are an investment in the future to benefit the
city, whether they be in the form of know-how or specific projects. Research
conducted in other capitals of culture shows that, on average, for every one złoty
spent we can expect an inflow of over four złoty from outside. When Wrocław was
the European Capital of Culture it spent 100 million złoty over the course of that
year and during the preparatory period - a large portion of this amount constituting
an investment in infrastructure - and accumulated 186 million złoty externally.
Added to this was the income generated by the people attending organised

How can I get involved?

One of the important premises of the European Capital of Culture contest is
the involvement of the local population who co-create the programme and who wish
to change their city for the better. It is not just about the artists or those
in charge of cultural affairs, but about each of us. We want to hear about what
is needed. We want to discuss matters and together create scenarios for a decent
future, be it in the context of cultural events, functioning institutions,
places, public transport, or missing elements within the cultural panorama of
Bielsko-Biała. There are many interesting projects to be found in the agendas
of the current capitals of culture that combine art with nature, business,
science and sport. It is for this reason that the scope of our interests is far

During the first stage of our endeavours two open calls were held for
project concepts, but you can still contact us at any time, share your ideas
and work with us. If you would like to get involved in any of the activities,
write to us on The information office, Point 11, is at 11
Listopada Street 24 in Bielsko-Biała (open Monday to Friday 12.00 - 18.00), telephone:
+48 506 210 636.