Esch-sur-Alzette as European Capital of Culture 2022

In a SOCIETY interview, H.E. Mr. Marc Ungeheuer, Ambassador of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to Austria, speaks about the European Capital of Culture 2022 Esch-sur-Alzette, its “cross-border” programme and how it will celebrate European culture and diversity.

(c) Clemens Schwarz/HBF

Esch-sur-Alzette together with ten Pro-Sud municipalities and eight French municipalities will be European Capital of Culture in 2022. How did this “cooperation” come about? 

The ambition of Esch-Alzette, the second largest city in Luxembourg, to become European Capital of Culture was based on the common history of the southern region of Luxembourg and that of eastern France. A common history that is inter alia rooted in the industrial history of ore mining and steel production. As a result, Esch2022 comprises 11 Luxembourgish and 8 French municipalities. In other words, it forms an entire European Capital of Culture region. We live Europe every day, the borders are literally fluid and this, as well as the identity of the region, corresponds to the basic idea of a European Capital of Culture, namely to show and celebrate European culture and diversity.

What will be the programme’s highlights throughout the year? 

The question of highlights is very difficult to answer. To begin with, we are talking about 160 projects in total, which will produce more than 2,000 events in both Luxembourg and France. These include art exhibitions, traditional festivals, markets with regional products, classical, contemporary and folklore dance performances, rock concerts, organ music, literature… As you can see, it will be colourful and varied, so there will be something for everyone. And because we have so many participating municipalities, there is always a special focus on at least one municipality each month, in addition to Esch-Alzette. Cultural tourists, but also, for example, hiking enthusiasts, will have something to experience and discover all year round.

Many hundreds of passionate people have worked on this programme together with the municipalities, artists, creative people, associations and other partners from the institutional as well as the economic sector. Personally, I particularly like the projects where as many citizens as possible are actively involved and I also recommend the Minett Trail for keen hikers as well as the Minett Cycle for more adventurous visitors. Even a ride on the bus is exciting in the Esch2022 region. For one thing, like all public transport in Luxembourg, it is free, and for another, some buses have been designed in collaboration with a regional artist.

How can Esch-sur-Alzette, but also the whole country, profit from the title European Capital of Culture in 2022?

The people that live in the Esch2022 region as well as guests should be proud to live in their homelands and visitors should add the region to their bucket list. The long-term cultural strategy aims to integrate citizens as well as touristic, political and economic actors from the region. In the framework of Esch2022, new structures will be built and existing ones are put in a new light. A lot of the projects will continue to go on far beyond 2022, which is our main goal overall. Close collaborations with ministries, associations, but also schools or other public institutions, as well as forming new real partnerships, e.g. between cultural workers or artists and business enterprises, will help to ensure that.

On a social level, Esch2022 wants to reduce fears of contact and mental barriers, making culture accessible to everyone, moving and involving residents and visitors. Our mission is to show that it is possible to live together in harmony. And of course it’s about culture, to dynamize artistic creation and to promote interdisciplinary dialogue. It’s about the population, involving them in the creative processes – cross-border – and linking the cultures even more strongly to each other.

Is the Embassy of Luxembourg in Austria planning any activities or events in this regard?

Due to the ongoing pandemic it has been very difficult to plan any related events here in Austria. Nevertheless, I would like to underline the collaboration established with Ars Electronica from Linz, alongside ZKM| Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe and HEK (House of Electronic Arts), Basel. The focus here will be on contemporary art at the interface of technology, science and society within the framework of major exhibitions on the site of Esch-Belval, where the industrial past meets the digital future.

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