Culture: A City Enriched by Difference

Article excerpt

A public debate on Birmingham's bid to be European Capital of Culture 2008, promoted by the Angle Gallery and the Institute of Ideas, takes place tonight.

Birmingham is competing against around 20 other cities, including Liverpool, Newcastle, Bristol, Cardiff, Belfast, Bradford and Canterbury, for the title, which has been reserved for a UK city in 2008. Full details of Birmingham's bid, led by Stephen Hetherington, former chief executive of The Lowry arts centre at Salford, are due to be revealed in January.

Here, three participants in tonight's debate set out their points of view.

BRIAN WOODS-SCAWEN, Chair of Birmingham Capital of Culture Bid Group, outlines the principles behind Birmingham's bid

We face much more than a new century. We face a new world.

In the old world which we have just left, there were certainties. In the new world which we are moving into, there are risks, uncertainties and ambiguities.

In the old world, we knew where we stood. The structure and role of government, family and personal relationships, authority, business, technology, faiths in all these changed only slowly. We learned how they are fitted together in our society based on fixed rules then we passed on these lessons to others.

Nothing is now certain. We have to work it out for ourselves, as individuals, in communication, as a society.

Culture is everything that helps us see the world from someone else's point of view. It covers the arts: performing, visual, literature. But it covers much more: heritage, food, sport, learning.

Birmingham is bidding for European Capital of Culture 2008 because Birmingham can be a role model for the rest of Europe. Our bid is not just about buildings, although our built environment has been transformed in recent years. Our bid is about the people of Birmingham and the West Midlands.

Many other cities bidding for European Capital of Culture will have much to offer. We want them to develop their culture because the UK as a whole will benefit.

But Birmingham has a unique offering. Birmingham's bid will be underpinned by:

Our diversity: Birmingham was built on generations of incomers who have made the city their home and played their part in creating something special. Through our mix of cultures, Birmingham can offer the rest of Europe an insight into how to build a city which is diverse yet unified.

Our industrial and technological heritage: Many of the social and moral issues of the 21st century will derive from science and technology offering us opportunities and options we don't know how to deal with. Our heritage, our scientific research and our museums will help us think through these uncertainties.

A new urban/rural partnership: The bid by Birmingham is on behalf of the whole region. Our rural communities can benefit from all that the city has to offer and our people who live in the city can learn from the changes and challenges that our rural communities are going through.

Birmingham's bid for European Capital of Culture 2008 will be unique. The bid exists because we are all learning from each other in building a new model city for the 21st century. Birmingham is bidding and Birmingham will win.

PAUL UDENZE, chief executive of The Drum, on what culture means in Birmingham

Culture has been defined in many ways. For me, culture is the learned and shared behaviour of communities of interacting people. Culture has a history, a present and a future. It changes as people change.

Birmingham has diverse communities of people who by virtue of their traditions, religion, ethnicity and preferences identify with one culture, or perhaps with more than one culture. They interact with each other and this gives Birmingham its compelling status as a multicultural city, enriched by difference and by what is shared between people of all kinds. …