Plovdiv 2019: Audiences creating culture

In 2019 Bulgaria and Italy are the EU Member States whose cities will proudly join the realm of the places awarded the prestigious title European Capital of Culture (read our  article on the topic).

Back in October, 2013, eight Bulgarian cities submitted their nominations for European Culture Capital 2019: Sofia, Burgas, Varna, Veliko Tarnovo, Ruse, Gabrovo, Plovdiv and Shumen (read the news: 8 Bulgarian Cities Run for European Culture Capital 2019 ).

In December, 2013, 4 of them were short-listed: Plovdiv, Sofia, Varna and Veliko Turnovo (read the EU statement: Four Bulgarian cities short-listed for European Capital of Culture 2019)

At this important stage of the competition, before the final decision of the EU Commission (due in September, 2014), we’ve contacted the 4 finalists to hear their brief account of the processes and projects going on in this melting pot called preparation for European Capital of Culture.

We chose to begin our series of short interviews with “the city where you live, when you’re happy”, that is with the enchanting city of Plovdiv.

Editor’s Note: Thank you Plovdiv 2019 Team for your sincere and thoughtful answers!

Candidate for European Capital of Culture: Plovdiv 2019


Plovdiv 2019 Candidate for European Capital of Culture logo

“Plovdiv 2019” –  is a municipal Foundation, established in 2011, which main objectives include project development and preparation of document for the European Capital of Culture in 2019. Image source:


How did the path to Cultural Capital of Europe enrich Plovdiv and add new dimensions the events in the city and its surrounding areas?

The application of a city is itself capable of reviving its cultural scene. And this is exactly  what has happened in Plovdiv. Currently the competition for the European Capital of Culture acts as a catalyst for the development of the full cultural potential of the city, creating many opportunities for Plovdiv artists to work at an European level , delivering productions, creating co-productions with European artists, developing partner networks both across the country  and abroad.

Contemporary Library Plovdiv

And these are only the positive effects in the cultural sphere. Let’s not forget Plovdiv’s motto which is: “Together”. In the past few months we saw that it is not impossible for this idea to become a reality, since the bid for European Capital of Culture is one of the few things that have received  full support from various political forces in the city.

Plovdiv 2019

Image: The website is dedicated to presenting a broad range  of events in Plovdiv.

What do you consider to be the most exciting project, well worth becoming a model or best practices of the ECC?

One of the main principles of our program has been the decentralization of cultural life. This is a very serious problem not only for Plovdiv, but also for many European cities.

One of our main projects addressing this issue is aiming at reviving the network of community centers in the city, which with the help of artists, architects and designers from all over Europe to be “reinvented” so as to fit the needs and ideas of local people and once again grow into hubs of cultural life in the community.

Another interesting project is the one called City of Dreams. It aims at reviving abandoned buildings and sites in the city, turning them into spaces for culture. Local and European artists will join forces to renew the connection between the citizens and these neglected urban spaces, imbuing them with attractive artistic and events .

Urban Dreams

The project “Mahala” [meaning neighborhood] targets an integrated approach for the inclusion of marginalized groups in the cultural life of the city, through innovation in education, in local economy and cultural identity strengthening. It is actually a project with great potential to become part of the best practices of the European Capital of Culture.

The application for a ECC is a complex process  and definitely not an end in itself. It does not finish with winning the title. In this context, what are the long term goals, or effects, that you have set as to the projects in Plovdiv? In particular, with regard to annual events in the city, both these with a long tradition and the ones that are yet to be founded.

The major impact will involve the development of the cultural scene in the city. Our program also relies on making social difference through art. Of course the role of the program is to attract new audiences from the city and abroad.

theatre 2 Plovdiv 2019

We want our program to reach people who traditionally do not participate in the cultural life of the city. What is more our aim here is for these people to be not only consumers, but also creators, actively participating in the process of creating culture.

Theatre Plovdiv 2019

We hope to attract artists from Bulgaria and abroad who will develop new topics in art. All this will create an active cultural scene that will position Plovdiv on the cultural map of the world, attracting visitors from around the world.

If you had only four sentences to invite someone in Plovdiv to come and feel the pulse of the city’s past and present, what would you say?

Plovdiv is the best kept secret on the Balkans. This is a city that will surprise you. It keeps the marks of many peoples and civilizations, and undoubtedly will leave a mark in your heart. :-)

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