An exceptional opportunity for the City of Mons, and for the whole region, to put itself (back) on the map of Europe.
When Elio Di Rupo, former Prime Minister and now deputy (MP) for and Burgomaster of Mons, mentions "Mons 2015, European Capital of Culture", he has no hesitation in saying that this is, "The start of a new era for our city, a massive boost for the redevelopment of a whole area".
It’s ten years now since the administrative centre of the Province of Hainaut – also officially recognised in 2002 as “Cultural Capital of Wallonia” – put in a very official application for the title of European Capital of Culture, following Antwerp (1993), Brussels (2000) and Bruges (2002).
On Tuesday 9th February 2010, having enjoyed the unanimous support of all the Belgian governments in place, Mons, along with the Czech city of Pilsen, landed first prize, winning the support of the European panel of judges with its unifying slogan, "When technology meets culture".
Technology and culture
Since the creation of the concept of "European Capital of Culture" in 1985, Mons will be the first Walloon city to be honoured with this title.
"We are thoroughly convinced that these two levers, technology and culture, will result in a multiplier effect for the economic development of the city,” Yves Vasseur, General Commissioner responsible for this gigantic feat of organisation since 2007, is fond of repeating.
In order to put on a programme worthy of this event, considerable public and private resources, in the order of 70 million euros, have been mobilised.
Very much upstream, the aim of the "I’ll be 20 in 2015" campaign has, for more than two years now, been specifically to involve Mons students in the artistic projects. A "Mons 2015 Enterprises" club, presided over by Eric Domb, founding owner of Pairi Daiza, is pursuing similar objectives on the scale of small and medium-sized enterprises.
More than two million visitors are expected in the shadow of the belfry. They’ll come to explore 5 new museums, 45 exhibitions and 36 artistic creations there. More than 300 big events, which, according to the wishes expressed so many times by the organisers, are intended to, "Reinvent social cohesion, shake up and encourage people to take a completely fresh look at their identity, their relationship with others on the new roads that the world will take".
The year 2015 will be characterised by four different seasons in Mons: Illumination, The Big Unwrapping, the Fiery Summer and the Renaissance.
Following the huge opening ceremony (which took place on 24th January), with tens of thousands of visitors turned into "mirror balls", a 10 km sentence on the city walls, the opening of Van Gogh and Mons Superstar exhibitions, the connected Café Europa, the Festival of the Image ‘Via’... a wealth of dazzling sights and experiences!
In the spring, the big unwrapping with the opening of five new museums, as well as the Arsonic concert hall and the much anticipated literary ‘Guinguette’, in the restored gardens of the magnificent Maison Losseau.
When summer comes, nearly 8000 real sunflowers – a firm nod to Van Gogh! – will form a maze on the Grand-Place, while at the Festival Au Carré, the voice of Bertrand Cantat will ring out in the 7 Tragedies of Sophocles.
This is also the time to discover the colourful multicultural works of contemporary artists, brought together at "Atopolis", on the magnificently renovated site of the old Manège de Sury, in the heart of the city.
A return, too, to the golden age of the Renaissance with the composer Roland de Lassus, who will be honoured with a "Grande clameur" (700 amateur choristers singing in unison), and the architect Jacques Du Broeucq.
Finally, in the great rooms of the Mac's at the Grand Hornu, four contemporary artists, including Italian Giuseppe Penone, will shake up the myth of Saint George, before the year closes with "Mon(s) Idéal", with creative production and staging by Daphné Cornez and Fabrice Bollen, the two Belgians who organised the opening ceremony of the 2014 World Cup in Sao Paulo!
This article is taken from the W+B Revue no. 126, to which you can subscribe free of charge.