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“Tartu and Southern Estonia have a lot worth showing to the world. Use the opportunity!”

Leeuwarden-Friesland was a European Capital of Culture in 2018 - and they were good at it. Tartu 2024 invited one of LF2018 programme managers, Immie Jonkman, to visit our bidding region and share her fresh insights on how culture can make a change. Immie gave two public lectures on community involvement in Tartu and Võru and participated in a workshop on audience development for Tartu 2024 final round bid book.

Two people in discussion.
03. Apr Kalle Paas

PHOTO: Kiur Kaasik

Immie, was Leeuwarden-Friesland 2018 a successful European Capital of Culture? Why?

Yes it was. Leeuwarden and Friesland had more visitors than expected: 5,3 million event visitors instead of planned 4 million. We also had more income from tourists and sponsors than expected, more people actively participating than expected. All the municipalities participated financially. It was a success.

When we won the title in 2013, we had a really bumpy start, a lot of discussions and a rather low willingness to participate, but in the end we had a really great year in 2018 with very different small and big projects.

But, to be really honest, if you look at our goals, have we reached all our goals? No we have not. But I am convinced that we will reach them in the next few years. 2018 was in many ways the first step to changing things, we now need to make the next steps. So, yes, we were succesful, but we are not there yet!

Immie in gallery Noorus, Tartu. PHOTO: Kiur Kaasik

What were the challenges in Leeuwarden and Friesland that you wanted to address with the ECoC programme?

We wanted to put Friesland on the map of Europe.

There was this perception about us that people, especially from abroad, go to Amsterdam or other touristy places. There was the perception that cultural tourists never choose Leeuwarden. Yet we had our cultural heritage and an ongoing programme – vibrant open air theatre kind of culture, big festivals – also before the European Capital of Culture.

So the European Capital of Culture allowed us to show that we really are culturally interesting. And that we, the Frisians are nice people as well!

In general – we wanted culture to make a change for Leeuwarden and Friesland on economical, ecological, social and cultural levels.

What were the strenghts of the city and the region that you wanted to present to European audiences?

We decided that our Capital of Culture was all about the community – mienskip in Frisian language. We have a number of close communities, but they are not really open. They are kind of focussed on their own square meter and not really used to open up. This we wanted to changed through our programme.

We thought like this: you can sit on a couch and complain about things wrong in your life, but you can also get off the couch and do something. And so we wanted people to do it and do it themselves!

Also, our region has a number of new people. We asked: how to get to know them? How to make it so that we, the people in the city and the region are one.

We also had ecological concerns and challenged people to work on solutions on that as well.

Seto artist Evar Riitsaar, writer Kauksi Ülle, Immie Jonkman and Tartu 2024 team members in Seto Ateljee-Galerii. PHOTO: Kiur Kaasik

You worked a couple of days in Tartu and the Southern Estonian region. How do you rate our chances to be a European Capital of Culture?

First, I think your history is really interesting. The way how you have coped with the history… This is something you can show the world: how the city overcame the occupations and is nowadays this Western European city.

You have a great museum in Tartu, Estonian National Museum. It’s really fascinating, especially if you know some of the background. I’ve also been to Karlova now, that neighbourhood is really interesting. I think you have a lot of hidden pearls worth showing to the world.

And, just as we had in Friesland, you maybe could be a bit more proud of your country. I think you are a proud people, but do not show it!

If Tartu does win the 2024 ECoC title, what do you say – what is vital for successful implementation?

Make sure that most people in the city and Southern Estonia want to be a part of this movement and make your people proud of it. Show the rest of the world what you are able to do and how beautiful it is. And how good you are in organising, how interesting this region and its history is.

Give people freedom to organise. Ask them what it is that they want to show to the rest of the world and help them carry it out. If people want to make a change, let them do it. Everything they do is OK. Be open, don’t judge.

People have to realise that being a European Capital of Culture is a once in a lifetime chance to change your region and show your region. It brings you opportunities you might never have again. Use these opportunities!

PHOTO: Kiur Kaasik