This month, we submitted our final bid book to the Ministry of Culture. The bid book is the result of two years of work by our team, dozens of cultural operators in the region on three sides of the border, and hundreds of collaborators from all over Europe. In the coming days, we will also submit the Slovak version of the bid book, and we will then make both versions available online for the public. Before that, we decided to publish the basic information and the most interesting projects and ideas that can be found in our bid book!
⬤ 100 pages ⬤ 3 programme pillars ⬤ 30 project clusters
⬤ 150+ projects ⬤ 500+ partners from all over Europe
⬤ 36 investment plans worth almost 100 million euros
We have not changed the initial concept which still deals with three main elements: Future’s Factories, Flow of Nature, and Borderless Identities. We understood the decision of the jury shortlisting our bid for the final selection as a signal that our concept is viable, and have further developed it based on the jury’s feedback. → Below, to indicate the advancement of our concept, we briefly introduce some new projects or mention those that have evolved most.
Žilina, Bielsko-Biała, and Frýdek-Místek are typical examples of cities that developed along with their respective industries. Industrial production has been a fertile ground for a particular culture, one that consists of both tangible and intangible assets: factories as the foundation of new urban structures; crafts, engineering, and entrepreneurial skills as a source of social and economic capital. Specific mindsets, loyalties, and attitudes co-create the social fabric and everyday life in industrial regions, even if their people are often not aware of it. The Future Factory programme pillar focuses on craft, artistic production, the industrial and technical heritage of the Beskids region and the connection between art and science.
Flow of nature
No matter which direction you take from our cities, you quickly reach nature and beautiful mountains. In this programme pillar, we merge thematic focus on environmental issues with artistic creation and pay cultural tribute to the surrounding Beskids. Through deconcentrating our programme, spreading the events over a large territory and bringing them to remote areas, we will engage natural landscapes and dozens of small towns and villages in the ECoC programme, so that they also can be a part of the European dialogue. We will offer visitors from all over Europe the experience of the wilderness of Beskid forests and mountains, and opportunities to embark on a journey of art and adventure into themselves and the region’s identity. We will explore traditional culture and inspire its contemporary reinterpretation. We will be as well addressing conflicting environmental and economic interests, and critically reconsider the relationship between humans and nature; the tension between the urges to protect and master it. We will be focusing on the issue of climate change and support adaptation techniques through better care of urban greenery and water management.
If culture is one of the forming elements of our identities – whether national, regional, or local – the societal role of art is to challenge those identities and to put our history in perspective. We see the ECoC title as an opportunity to better understand that past, to confront the taboos lingering in our collective unconscious, especially those related to the region’s role in WW2 and subsequent nationalisms, and turn them into a force of construction, rather than destruction. Yet, we do not want to get stuck in the past. We see the title, first and foremost, as an opportunity to use art to imagine a different kind of world, through art, challenging established narratives and envisaging new ones. We also want to reflect Žilina’s long-standing identity as a transportation hub, and drive European mobility and intercultural oo dialogue throughout the ECoC process. We think that such dialogue is the essence of all transportation and mobility, not just their accidental byproduct. Our programme is a celebration of that dialogue. In our program, we also focus on these topics, and we feel an urgency to explore this freedom in any artistic or journalistic expression, and to become a European centre for debate on the freedom to speak and create, whether in art or in the media.
In addition to the three program pillars, the bid book also contains 30 project clusters → thematic areas, which serve for a clear classification and display of projects. Each program pillar has 10 clusters and each cluster covers several similar related projects. We will gradually publish program clusters and specific projects.
⬤ Interowen cities ⬤ Wires ⬤ Living Water ⬤ Summit of culture ⬤ Windows of Diversity ⬤ Freedom of Expression
⬤ and many more!
In addition to the 148 projects in the three program pillars, located in the second chapter of the application, there are also projects that are specifically aimed at involving the widest possible population, education and community building. These are part of Chapter 4 – Outreach. Projects focused specifically on cooperation with other European cities are in Chapter 3 – The European Dimension.
Winning the title of European Capital of Culture represents a unique opportunity to mobilize resources to build and renew cultural infrastructure in the city and region. As part of the Žilina Beskids 2026 project, 36 investment plans are ready for the entire cross-border region. Many new buildings will be built (museums, galleries, film studio, park, fountains) and a large part will be used for the reconstruction of cultural houses, city cinemas, monuments and also to the restoration of urban and natural spaces (forest park, embankment, squares and courtyards). The total volume of investments is planned at the level of almost 100 million euros. Of this, the Slovak government declared the expected volume of investments in projects within the ECOC 2026 from EU funds at the level of 40 million euros. We will gradually publish investment plans in other articles on our website.