Capitals of Culture – An introductory survey of a worldwide activity

This paper is an introduction to the Capitals and Cities of Culture programmes around the world. The European “City of Culture” title started in 1985. It was the first time a phrase previously (and still nowadays) associated with marketing and PR was bestowed on a city by a third party. That programme, now the “European Capital of Culture” has generated a considerable library of reports, theses, analyses, evaluations, articles, books and commentaries. Far less has been written about the programmes which have followed in its footsteps.

This paper surveys 31 titles. Some have ended and several lasted only a few editions. More are due to start in the next few years. Over 320 cities in 104 countries have held titles. Over 50 cities are already designated to hold titles to 2025. This paper outlines the programmes. It is very much an introductory survey: more information is needed on almost all of the titles except the original European title.

This article was written by Steve Green, an independent expert member of the selection and monitoring panels of the European Capitals of Culture for the period 2011-2016.