‘Work to­gether and you can be the city of cul­ture’

Ex­clu­sive: Ex­pert ad­vises Aberdeen to bol­ster 2025 chances through unity

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - NEWS - BY NEIL DRYSDALE

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.”

“You need au­then­tic­ity, am­bi­tion and part­ner­ship”

BID: The Spec­tra fes­ti­val took place in Union Ter­race Gar­dens

Re­flec­tions of Castle­gate in the mir­ror box in­stalled as part of cul­tural ef­forts

Bob Palmer

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