Innovative ideas for cultural and creative sectors in Europe

Creative Cities Network

Network of Culture Capitals

This proposal is for the creation, management and promotion of a new platform - a website and other online and mobile resources - to link digital media production and innovation with the EU's Capitals of Culture programme.

Innovation

Under Creative Europe, there is an opportunity to enhance the value of the Capitals of Culture and MEDIA programmes by creating better links between them and their audiences and encouraging new collaborations. This proposal is for the creation, management and promotion of a central website and other online and mobile resources, to link digital media production and innovation with the Capitals of Culture programme Europe-wide. Online resources would be customized in collaboration with each Capital, and would provide a way of linking the creative industries in the city and fostering creative industry innovation. They would also encourage digital access to culture for European citizens. There is an ever greater need for Europe’s smaller cities to promote their digital and creative industries. This involves building their profile, seeking collaboration and finding platforms to showcase their creative work internationally, beyond their national broadcasters or information media. The project also aims to promote awareness the MEDIA Fund, and other EU funded creative and digital projects, using the Capitals of Culture as a gateway, to Europe’s citizens and its creative community in ways that are engaging and enjoyable to use. Already Mons in 2015 has proclaimed the theme of its year as Mons, where technology meets culture (http://www.mons2015.eu/en/mons-2015/). This could be a feature common to all of the cities in years to come, as the influence of ICT technologies grows.

Technology

The website and its associated digital services would feature o A guide, toolkit and workshops to help a city get up-and-running quickly with the lowest possible cost and highest possible impact. These would include design resources as well as the formats (for example schools competitions, events at museums and galleries, how to involve local cinemas) that are known to have worked elsewhere. o Publicly available content (from national or EU-wide arts organizations) with tools, programming interfaces, applications and copyright agreements to allow users to ‘mashup’ content and create new cultural products. o Design templates and a content management system to enable cities to launch their own web sites and mobile apps quickly and easily. These services, while having plenty of local ‘character’ and branding, would be easily navigated by the public. The content management system would be based on pre-existing, well supported open-source tools. o Links to creative tools to enable the creation of content - new technologies, if managed well, allow small-scale experimentation at low cost and risk, which can be followed by rapid scale-up of the things that work. These tools might be supported with local training to encourage commercial activities alongside the City of Culture activities. o Links to Social media tools (eg Facebook, Twitter) to promote collaboration between the two cities in that year and across Europe

Target Group

The Capitals of Culture programme, and citizens who want to access and participate in culture via digital means rather than the conventional gallery/performance route. This would include citizens of other cities, initially those which are part of the the Capitals of Culture programme. Finally, the creative communities in those cities are targetted. All of Europe’s cultural capitals already use websites as part of their organization and communication. However, these sites are designed by the cities themselves generally to promote the city and their events; there is no pan-European promotion, and the European branding is very slight – generally only in the logo. They often miss the opportunity to engage citizens through the website, for example, by running competitions for schools, doing tie-ins with media companies or providing alert services and geo-located applications. The screen and digital industries have very little profile as the focus is often on artistic events like exhibitions and performances. Members of the public are confused by a plethora of websites that employ different navigation and branding devices and no common information architecture. Some of the cities are also too small or lacking in digital expertise to run high-quality digital operations themselves. And even those that do have this expertise waste time and resources re-inventing and rebuilding web infrastructure and applications that have been used elsewhere in Europe and could be readily re-used.

Implementation

- Engage a project manager and other resources. - Develop an online site through which to progress the idea, to enable collaboration between professionals across Europe. - Conduct a survey of previous cities’ achievements in digital media and upcoming cities’ plans • 2014 Umeå (Sweden) and Riga (Latvia) • 2015 Mons (Belgium) and Plzeň (Czech Republic) • 2016 San Sebastian (Spain) and Wroclaw (Poland) • 2017 Aarhus (Denmark) and Paphos (Cyprus) • 2018 Valetta (Malta) and Netherlands (city tbc) - Create a series of physical and virtual workshops for media and culture professionals from the upcoming cities, with digital media professionals from Europe and the US, to investigate best practise, innovation, and identify specific needs. - Create a prototype during 2014 to enable digital initiatives between Umea and Riga, as a first stage and proof of concept for the platform. Partners/stakeholders: - Managers from Creative Europe of the EU Capitals of Culture programme and the MEDIA programme - Managers from the individual cities - Access to Culture organisations such as Culture24 in the UK to provide national-level input - Representative organizations of the digital media sector in the countries concerned - Existing networks – particularly online creative networks – which promote digital collaboration, such as diydays.com and EDN.

Sustainability

The proposed website and other media resources would be created by a small agency ideally sponsored by the Directorate, Education and Culture. The idea is to create partnerships between cities across Europe and provide a digital platform for users to use and create content from the cultural space in the cities. This will create a community of users and forge lasting links between the creative industries in the different cities. The selection of the cities three years in advance of their designation permits the web resources to be extensively planned, and enables proper coordination between cities and the project to be established. Investing in a platform in this way enables the enterprises that are at the heart of cultural production to create relationships and innovative ideas - this is what will make it self-sustaining. Over time, the platform would become a repository for the stories and cultural products created by small micro-enterprises. The platform would better promote the organic links between culture, creativity and innovation, resulting in economic growth and competitiveness. Existing commercial partnerships in these creative cities could be leveraged to provide additional funding to the infrastructure. Broadcasters in the countries can also become involved, as in the BBC/Arts Council project thespace.org. Credit would flow back to the EU, and it could have control over the branding so that the cultural capitals would truly be seen as a European project.