After visiting Novi Sad in Serbia and Kaunas in Lithuania, we visited the third and final European Capital of Culture for 2022, Esch-sur-Alzette, the second largest city in Luxembourg with a population of around 35,000, a rich industrial history of iron mining and admirable contemporary architecture.
The city is located in the immediate vicinity of the French border and has taken advantage of its strategic position in the programme. It involved 10 municipalities (towns and villages) from Luxembourg and 8 from France. Together they entered and won the title with the concept REMIX Culture and its four sections REMIX Art, REMIX Europe, REMIX Nature, REMIX Yourself).
The opening ceremony took place in the historic core of the city and also in the outskirts of Belval. It is an industrial area turned into a university campus, shops and restaurants and concert halls. During the ceremony, 19 musical groups performed on several stages, visitors could take part in a participatory game or watch light and sculpture installations in the former factory space. The opening ceremony programme attracted more than 18,000 visitors over the weekend and another 12,000 watched the programme via livestream.
Three lessons for Trenčín
There are currently approximately 110 different nationalities living in Esch. The ECOC opening ceremonies are usually attended by around 15 000 to 50 000 visitors, not only from the city and the region, but also from abroad. Nevertheless, the speeches and most of the programme were in Luxembourgish only. This made it difficult for visitors from other languages to find their way around the programme and to participate in the participatory activities.
Esch-sur-Alzette has exceptional cultural and educational capacities. Most impressive is the industrial estate transformed into the lively and dynamic Belval district. Here there are galleries, libraries, a rock hall and outdoor stages for cultural events for thousands of people. In terms of attendance, the opening ceremony was an extraordinary opportunity to use these spaces and create an impressive programme on the scale of an urban festival. We were therefore surprised that the National Gallery or the ECOC Information Centre (Infopoint) were closed during the opening ceremony.
The ceremony programme started in the evening in the historic core and continued in the Belval district, where a number of activities and concerts took place. However, the programme lacked a timetable and maps where you can quickly and easily see where and when what part of the programme is taking place. In this case, you could turn to volunteers, but they were minimal for the size of the program and the number of visitors. Therefore, the city of Kaunas remains our biggest inspiration in working with volunteers and the programme.
However, the opening ceremony was only the first event of Esch as European Capital of Culture. Esch offers a programme of events throughout the year on its website.