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Plovdiv - European Capital of Culture 2019

Plovdiv is the first Bulgarian city elected as European Capital of Culture and shares the title under the motto #together with Matera in Italy. Since 1985, the title of European Capital of Culture has been awarded, recognizing European cities that make a special contribution to the diversity and commonality of European cultural heritage.

© Plovdiv 2019
© Plovdiv 2019

We talked to the Plovdiv team in 2019 to find out what the programmatic highlights are, how the #together motto can be found in them and what impact the title can have on the Bulgarian creative industries.


1.    What are the programmatic highlights of Plovdiv 2019. How do they reflect the motto #together?
Plovdiv is the first Bulgarian city to be European Capital of Culture and after four years of preparation, the programme hosts more than 300 projects and more than 500 events covering not only the city but also the whole South Central Region as well as the cities finalists Varna, Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo. Within the framework of the initiative, many traditional city events have gained new strength and have expanded, new festivals have emerged, and an extraordinary amount of new experience with cultural content and its management, will surely remain as a legacy of the initiative. Our programme highlights reflect the natural look of Plovdiv, its local artists, the slow living and bohemian lifestyle, the multi-ethnic profile of the population, the fine tie between different generations and social groups, the multi-layered history and cultural heritage and the contemporary point of view of all these specifics. This is the vivid implementation of our motto #together - festivals, large-scale shows, workshops and installations – each of the selected accents is a collection of events that are hard to fit into a standard genre definition, because they usually have many varied elements included within them – again a real implementation of the #together motto.


2.    Tell us something about Kapana Creative District, the flagship project of Plovdiv 2019.
Kapana Creative District is a flagship project of Plovdiv 2019 and one of its emblems. We could say that Kapana Creative District is the most visible and one of the most successful projects in our programme. It started while Plovdiv was preparing for the bit to host the European Capital of Culture 2019 event, and has successfully continued as a high-rank project in the programme of Plovdiv 2019.  We succeeded to transform and revive the whole quarter and stepping on to its authentic atmosphere and traditions of craft making, we build up into an artistic, trendy, charming, full of life and dynamic social and creative area, where everybody wants to go and spend time. We develop the long-term project through the launch of annual open calls with focus on the district, starting in 2014 and having the last one currently open for international participation. Simultaneously to this is the development of the visual identity of the project which is presented in detail on the specially created bilingual webpage visitkapana.bg .

© Plovdiv 2019


3.    What is happening there in 2019 and what is planned for the district in the long run?
During 2019 we open the annual call for funding the projects which continue the developing process of the district. This year is the fifth phase of this process. The open call puts the focus on creating of urban events in Kapana through youth art, contemporary circus and street art. The open call will be closed on 3rd of May and we are excitedly awaiting the new, creative ideas. So far we have had more than 100 events specially created for and with the people inhabiting it. The mission of the project is to transform the district into an international laboratory and place for recreations, innovations and experiments on the field of cultural management and industry. With its activities Kapana is turning into an attractive place for artists, curators, cultural managers, artisans, architects, software specialists, urban planners, writers and musicians from all over the country and becomes a recognizable international center. In the long run, the project aims to establish Kapana as a popular and beloved brand in a national and international context that attracts the interest of tourists and representatives of the creative industries all over the world.



4.    How was the program developed, who was involved in the development (institutions, artists, Plovdiv’s population, former European Capitals of Culture?)
The programme of Plovdiv European Capital of Culture is structured in four thematic platforms, linked to the typical features of our city, its cultural heritage, history, the rhythm of life, as well as to the problems and the stereotypes which we would like to overcome. The basic meaning and key for understanding the whole programme, the ideas of the different platforms and their inner logic is the motto #together. The projects are organised in the programme, not according to their types or genres, but in thematic “clusters“ based on their themes and concepts. Each of the programme platforms comprises three “clusters”. All projects, despite their cluster division, are connected and intermingled with each other also through their audiences, the locations where they take place, participants, partners etc. Thus they contribute to the implementation of the programme  as a whole and to the meaning of the motto #together as a real cultural process.
For the team of Plovdiv 2019, the Municipality of Plovdiv and all the partners  – local, regional, national and international to implement the bid-book content and ideas in a real programme is a big and rewarding challenge, since it brings incredible capacity building, expanding of the audiences, a many-layered networking and long-term involvement.  The project is the biggest cultural project for Bulgaria until now and is the biggest cultural endevour of the EU which makes it a huge privilege and even bigger responsibility in which we are proud to have on board both all the biggest cultural institutions in the city and the emblematic cultural institutes from the main cities in the country, but also the network of the regional cultural hubs, called Chitalishta and the wide range of involvement of independent artists. Plovdiv 2019 Foundation managed to implement the programme with more than 90 percent of all the events suggested as content idea and implementation through the partners involved.

5.    Which impact on Plovdiv and/or Bulgaria do you expect after the end of being European Capital of Culture ? Which structures will remain and which strategies for sustainable development of creative und cultural industries do you expect from Plovdiv 2019?
The main core of our work with the project and the development of the initiative in Bulgaria is to create and secure sustainable foundation for the creative and cultural industries in Plovdiv and Bulgaria through building an unformal network of organization, the acquired capacity building which stays within the people involved, the expanded targeting and the citizens participation, there are all among the results and the legacy markers of the ECoC year plus the continuous rise in the tourists flow and the open and better development of the services sector, the infrastructure the industry sector in Plovdiv etc.  We also work for legacy and for the implementation of new standart for cultural management as a whole. The impact which we expect is Plovdiv to have a recognizable and positive image on the European cultural map with interesting, cultural, historical post-industrial spots of interest and active cultural operators who have broad access to partnership networks by offering a higher and wider capacity and richer opportunities for international collaboration. It is also worth mentioning here the vast and very active network of volunteers which we managed to create and develop in the years and which for sure will stay active amidst the cultural events of the city after 2019.


6.    The first quarter of Plovdiv’s Residency as European Capital of Culture is already over, how are things going, which milestones were already reached, what are the next milestones?
We had the incredible official opening of the title year which for the first time ever in Bulgaria managed to gather up to 50 thousand people spectators for a winter outdoor cultural event with more than 1500 participants both professional and non-professional varying from the age of 6 to the age of 90+ on a specially designed stage with special music composition and dramaturgy. The whole event was part of 3 days celebration in the city comprising of outdoor and indoor theatre, musical events, exhibitions and the special participation of artists coming from Matera  with whom we are honored to have the change to share the ECoC year with. We had two special exhibitions - one of them site-specific specially designed for the space of one of the ex-tobacco factories in the Tobacco City and dedicated to the so important for the city and the region tobacco industry and the one the outdoor exhibition dedicated to the commemoration of the 30 years of the fall of the Berlin wall. From the start of the year we had given to the public around 100 events in diversity of genres with premiere of theatre performances, cinema projects, outdoor events, workshops and associated projects.


7.    Did you cooperate with previous European Capitals of Culture or did you use synergies or best practices from previous years? And if so, how and with which Capitals?
The informal network of the previous, current and the selected-future ECoC cities is an active, crucially important and extremely helpful pool of practices, good and not-to-do examples and a wide platform for discussions and exchange of knowledge, support and collaborative opportunity. It involves more than 20 active entities with whom we are in a constant digital exchange and have minimum twice a year a meeting for updates and development of the initiative according to the current needs of the EU and each country and community engaged.



We thank Gina Kafedzhian, Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva and Elitsa Vasileva from the Plovdiv 2019 team for the interview!

Photos: Kapana Creative District © Plovdiv 2019 (top) ; Kapana Creative District © Violeta Dincheva (in text)