Rijeka Carnival, © Borko Vukosav

Port of diversity

A lot is happening in Croatia – of interest to urbanites and European policy wonks alike. Aside from the country taking on its first ever presidency of the European Council, one of its cities, Rijeka, will become the joint European Capital of Culture 2020 (which it shares with Galway in the Republic of Ireland) in 10 days’ time.

“There is a lot of differences between the whole of Croatia and Rijeka,” notes Vojko Obersnel, mayor of Rijeka in an interview for Euronews, “this was already an open-minded city, accepting of all differences and we are very proud of that. We will use the Capital of Culture title to show that way of life in Rijeka and its region, which is not always the same like in some other parts of Croatia.”

Panoramic view of Rijeka – © European Union, 2019

The European Capital of Culture attracts a lot of interest from different cities, with a highly competitive bidding process from right across Europe. It involves signing on to a year-long programme of arts and culture, as well as renovating cultural buildings.

​Two of the buildings that are benefitting from this project include the city museum and city library, which will both be relocated to renovated industrial heritage buildings in the city’s cultural quarter. The city museum, home of the world’s first ever torpedo, among other treasures, will take up a new residence in the former headquarters of the Sugar Refinery Palace, which was built in 1752 at the beginning of the city’s industrialisation.

The city library, which will be rehoused in the former tobacco factory, is set to take on a host of new social services, and gains a computer-equipped classroom, a section for blind and visually impaired people, and a film and music section.

Countdown clock to Rijeka 2020 European City of Culture 2020 © Borko Vukosav

Meanwhile, ‘water, work and migration’ will make up the themes for the cultural programme, which will include a number of flagship projects, such as:

The ‘kitchen of diversity’ – which creates a space for people from different backgrounds to share food, as well as music and ideas

‘Sweet & Salt’ – which aims to revive urban and former industrial areas along the Rječina River on the approach to the city’s port

Dopolavoro – which aims to provide food for thought to visitors on the nature of the future of work through exhibitions, theatre and opera

However, for Obersnel, the Capital of Culture title means a bit more:

“The name of the whole project, The Port of Diversity, is something which describes Rijeka as a modern and open-minded city, so we are giving the opportunity to a lot of citizens and to civil society to be a part of the whole European Capital project, so it’s not only a programme which has involved our institutions – like theatres and museums.

“A big part of the project is also produced directly by the citizens and their civil organisations. That’s very, very important because we want to show not only so-called institutional culture, but what our citizens prepared for this year.”

Find out more about what Rijeka is planning this year and watch the interview with Mayor Obersnel:

Alex Godson Eurocities Writer