Clermont-Ferrand is a candidate for the title of European Capital of Culture 2028, with the Massif Central. Its mayor Olivier Bianchi came to present his project to the elected officials of Lozère.
Tell us about the European bid project led by Clermont Ferrand, and why is Lozère interested?
We decided, in Clermont-Ferrand, to be a candidate in the European Capital of Culture programme. It will be France’s turn in 2028. It is a city that must be a candidate, but it can choose what is called its playing field, with whom and in what territory it decides to develop the project.
However, Clermont-Ferrand is the metropolis of the Massif Central; it is a geological territory that has a coherence, and we quickly realized that it also has a geocultural coherence. It is a territory that shares a series of things, in particular rurality, landscapes, transport problems, mobility, the aging of its population and a youth that seeks to find project and life hopes in this territory.
Send a sign of consideration to the territories and populations that feel distant
The fact is that we realized very quickly that we were very close. We are a bit like the city of the Massif Central diaspora. We think it might be interesting to take advantage of this opportunity to talk about the relationship between the rural and the urban. How do we create culture in rural areas, how do we not recreate centralities around Clermont but how do we build a cultural archipelago throughout the entire massif, how do we recover pride in a territory and its inhabitants?
So you travel the territory to meet with elected officials, where do you come to Mende from?
Absolutely. Of the 22 departments affected by the Massif Central, 12 have already joined our candidacy. Many villages have also joined us, Saint-Étienne, Aurillac, Le Puy Aubusson, Guéret…
With the difficulty, in Lozère, of being faced with the candidacy of Montpellier…
We had the support of Carole Delga at the beginning, but when Montpellier came out of the woods, it was very natural that she supported Montpellier’s candidacy. But these types of projects are not a war. It should not be experienced as a conflict. These are two different projects; it’s up to elected officials to choose which one speaks to them the most. There are nine candidate cities in total. If Montpellier is among the finalists, and not us, we will support this candidacy. With Michaël Delafosse, the mayor of Montpellier, we know each other well. May the best win ! By choosing one, you don’t suddenly turn your back on the other.
What are the strengths of your application?
I think that our candidacy is seriously interesting, because I sense that Europe will need to send a signal of interest and consideration to the territories and populations that feel far from the Benelux-Rhine-Rhone golden triangle. If Europe wants to remain connected with the populations, it would be better to say that it is time for these ruralities, for what we have called in geography “the margins”, but which are basically territories in which there are so many projects, artists, creators, know to do, festivals, heritage…
There are a lot of central massifs in Europe. Choosing a central massif also means talking to others in Europe and telling them “That you are in a mountainous area, that you are far from the traffic maps, that you are hyper-rural does not mean that you do not have something to say from the cultural and artistic point of view.”
What are the axes of your project?
We are going to question issues around rurality, isolation, cultural mobility. For example today, what does it mean to make culture for young people? The question that we elected officials must ask ourselves is to these young people, at least during their schooling, what can we offer them as artistic emancipation, as cultural emotion. There are things that have already been done, and 2028 should be an opportunity to strengthen our territory in cultural matters. In particular, we must question the issue of these rural youth and tell them “You don’t just have television as a gateway to things.”
Do you know Lozère?
My father was a railwayman. I lived in Mende, Marvejols, Monistrol-d’Allier, Aurillac, Puy-en-Velay… The Massif Central, I know it very well.
So, did you come by train?
If we are capital, on these infrastructure issues, from the moment when all of Europe is going to collapse, I think it can help local elected officials have a say in national land use planning decisions, saying “If you don’t want to be seen as funny, maybe we should ask about the train thing.”. These are issues that we all have in common in this territory.
Nine cities are candidates for the title of European Capital of Culture 2028: Clermont-Ferrand, therefore, Montpellier, too, Amiens, Bastia, Bourges, Nice, Reims, Rouen and Saint-Denis.
Before December 1, 2022: submission of application files. 2023: designation of the winning city. 2028: European Capital of Culture.
The application files, collected by the Ministry of Culture, will be submitted to an independent European pre-selection jury made up of 10 experts appointed by the institutions and bodies of the European Union after an open call for expressions of interest and two experts appointed by the Minister of Culture. The list of cities selected to participate in the final selection is decided by the Minister of Culture, according to the report of the selection jury, which will be made public on the website of the Ministry of Culture.
According to the website of the Ministry of Culture, the expected benefits are the strengthening of the international influence of the selected cities, the improvement of the image of the city among citizens, the strengthening of the capacities and visibility of its cultural sector, the awareness and access to promoted culture, as well as the stimulation of cultural tourism.