Pull together to win city of culture, Aberdeen told
Expert advises Aberdeen to bolster 2025 chances through unity
An internationally-renowned cultural chief has urged Aberdeen to ditch “factionalism” and “selfish self-interest” in its bid for the UK City of Culture. Bob Palmer, who was the director of culture for the Council of Europe in Strasbourg from 2006 to 2013, met with Aberdeen Festival representatives.
“You need authenticity, ambition and partnership”
An internationally-renowned cultural chief has urged Aberdeen to ditch “factionalism” and “selfish self-interest” in its bid for the UK City of Culture.
Bob Palmer, who was the director of culture for the Council of Europe in Strasbourg from 2006 to 2013, met Aberdeen Festival representatives at the Beach Ballroom this week.
And he told the Press and Journal the advice he would give to the north-east community after Aberdeen City Council confirmed it was bidding for the UK City of Culture prize in 2025.
Mr Palmer said: “Aberdeen should bring people together and have them heading in the same direction. If it can’t manage that, it won’t win.
“I have travelled all over Europe and seen cities getting things right and you can’t afford to have constant clashes between any groups or egos.
“Aberdeen has a lot of things going for it, in terms of strong business, artistic, design and technological achievement.
“But, when you enter a bidding process, you have to park your differences at the door.
“You need a strong creative ecology between all the different elements, and mobilise the public to get behind you.”
His words were backed by the local authority’s coleader, Douglas Lumsden, who said: “The bid process will require help and input from many sections of the community.
“Business and cultural groups will have a role to play in the bid as will third sector and community groups.
“We accept that producing a bid will be a huge undertaking, but we feel the social and economic benefits for Aberdeen can be huge.
“This bid process can bring the city together and show the rest of the country what we have to offer.”
Mr Palmer, who has been involved with the cultural transformation of cities for over 30 years, pointed to the example of Paisley, which is in the running to be UK City of Culture in 2021.
He said: “Their different political groups have all got wholeheartedly behind the bid and they realise the community has to be encouraged to join the campaign.
“Cities can only move in two directions – forward or backward – and if you are stuck in the middle, you tend to go into reverse.”
Mr Palmer was the director of two European Capitals of Culture – Glasgow and Brussels – and advises Unesco and the European Commission.
He is willing to share his insight with Aberdeen in the future, but said there was no miracle solution to transforming any city.
He added: “The top three lessons I’ve learned is you need authenticity, ambition and partnership.
“You can’t just copy other places or try to duplicate success stories elsewhere.
“You have to create your own vision and it has to be true to your roots.”
Mr Palmer is currently involved in projects in Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sri Lanka and the UK.
And his final message was a simple one. He said: “The more people you have arguing and focusing on their differences, the harder it is to move forward.
“Successful cities are ones where the citizens and politicians can work together for the common good.”
BID: The Spectra festival took place in Union Terrace Gardens
Reflections of Castlegate in the mirror box installed as part of cultural efforts