A bus in Gorizia - @ Gorizia Apt

A bus in Gorizia - @ Gorizia Apt

In less than two years, Gorizia and Nova Gorica will be together the European Capital of Culture. We met Gorazd Božič, director of GO!2025

28/06/2023 -  Paola Rosà

First cultural operator, then head of cabinet in the Municipality, since September 2022 Gorazd Božič has been the director of GO!2025, the body that organises and manages events for the European Capital of Culture event, assigned in 2025 to Nova Gorica and Gorizia together: he shared the difficulties and challenges of a year, 2025, which even before starting has already brought concrete results to the area. There are almost two years to go until 8 February 2025, the date of the inauguration set for national Day of Culture in Slovenia, but for the promoters and operators of GO!2025  these months to come feel like the final rush, with so much still to do and fine-tune.

"The work started almost six years ago – observes director Gorazd Božič – even if in 2017 I was not directly in the organising group, but I was involved on behalf of one of the associations promoting the idea and engaged in drafting the proposal. I worked in music, and I remember very well the initial stages of this process, when it had yet to be decided whether to go in the direction of a joint candidacy".

Two cities, one location; two member states and two languages, one Europe. The situation of Nova Gorica and Gorizia, chosen as a unitary territory, is unique in the forty-year history of the European capitals of culture. And according to Božič the idea came from the grassroots.

“We were talking about it the other day with Neda Rusjan Bric, who is still part of our staff as an external artistic consultant: she was the one who promoted the idea of the joint candidacy, and she was the one who then guided the artistic process from 2017 to today What she confirmed to me is that, in this process of consolidating connections on both sides of the border, she realised how this cross-border territory had unique things to say, unique things to show. On the one hand we want to show Europe the uniqueness of a unitary territory, where four cultures coexist; on the other hand, it is an opportunity to break down those residues of suspicion and mistrust that still risk dividing communities".

Enemy number one: History

In fact, if asked who was the number one enemy of such a risky enterprise in these preparatory years, even only from a logistical-organisational point of view, Gorazd Božič only assigns bureaucracy second place: "Our number one enemy were the last hundred years, with all the events that in the twentieth century have fuelled distrust between Slovenians and Italians that did not exist until 1914", explains the director, who is also a musician and admits that he cannot avoid reading and re-reading history in order to interpret the present. Especially in these places where the border has been drawn and redrawn too many times.

"My grandfather, who lived in the same house for 99 years, changed citizenship six times. And this is just one example of what we can tell in 2025, and of the wounds we can mend. In my opinion, one of the most important exhibitions will be inside a warehouse of the Slovenian railways: a sort of virtual museum of the border area where we will try to give space to both sides in the presentation of the story, two visions for each stage. This will also allow us to show the differences, and therefore to reconcile them".
In fact, alongside distrust, ignorance is also an adversary to fear: "People have been in the dark for too long, ignoring many things about their neighbours, but fortunately the trend has reversed, and there is a desire to cooperate, to get to know each other and accept each other. Huge steps can be seen, especially between Slovenians and Italians who work in the same sector: there is the idea that only by uniting will we be stronger".
The effort made in these preparatory years goes in the same direction that the two municipalities have undertaken some time ago, also through the EGTC, the territorial cooperation group: "We try to act as a hinge – explains Božič – mending the border band and bringing together the city, of which Piazza Transalpina could become the epicentre. The economic-turistic objective is to create a district from Salcano to the castle of Gorizia and the red house: a conjunction band where events are concentrated, to make that place the centre and no longer the separation band of the times of the fence".

Connection is the keyword

Gorazd Božič has managed the entire process of candidacy and organisation by covering various roles: at the beginning as a cultural operator on behalf of a non-profit association in the classical music sector, then at the end of 2018 as head of the cabinet of the newly elected mayor of Nova Gorica Klemen Miklavič, eventually landing the position of director of GO!2025 in September last year. "I've always loved the connections between different worlds, and my mobility certainly helps me a lot to manage the various relationships and make progress in management", says the director, who highlights how the candidacy project and its implementation were nourished by the contributions of a cross-border team without which the bid book, "the Bible of the project", which won the selection, would not even have been born.
"The connections that already exist in the area must be valued, this is in a way our mission. And this is what we want to show Europe in 2025. These are connections between the various cultural operators, associations, institutions, but not only, as we also deal with tourism, mobility, hospitality. But our goal is not only to show Europe that Europe already exists here. We also want to show the citizens who live here that we are much more European than we think we are, and thanks to the mechanisms of the European Capital of Culture we will be able to strengthen some realities in need of support, so that the effect will survive even after 2025. I am thinking of exchanges of personnel and skills between theatres, associations, festivals, to avoid duplication and strengthen each other".
However, the cultural focus does not overshadow other aspects, such as the economic-tourism one: "The second objective is to bring to Nova Gorica and Gorizia people attracted by things that are not usually done here, and thus promote the area and its beauties – the tourist farms, the cuisine, wine, walks, cycle tourism – in an area that is not only the Vipavska Dolina or Vipacco valley, not only Friuli, Brda or Collio, but it is all of this together. From Nova Gorica in 20 minutes you can get everywhere, from the mountains of Bovec to the seaside in Grado". Less of an event and more of a development project, the European Capital of Culture is therefore an opportunity not to be missed. "A once in a lifetime opportunity", agrees the director.

A challenge for the whole territory

The double European Capital of Culture will actually go far beyond the administrative boundaries of Nova Gorica and Gorizia: "There are another 40 municipalities involved in the planning and beneficiaries of investments, 13 in Slovenia and 27 in Italy. They are the ones that would have the GO license plate, which is now gone", smiles Gorazd Božič.

The area widens further if we consider the pool of beneficiaries of small investments, offered by tenders within the Italy-Slovenia Interreg  Programme under the direction of the EGTC: until 2026, 3 million Euros will be distributed to residents in the provinces of Udine, Pordenone, Gorizia, Trieste, and Venice as well as in five Slovenian regions.

"We know that creating connections between the various sectors is already difficult even just within the same city or town, let alone across the border – observes Božič – but we have always known it, this is simply our reality". A reality that, in order to be able to circumvent some bureaucratic-administrative quibbles, has come knocking as far as Brussels, where, precisely on the initiative of the Gorizia and Nova Gorica operators, a pilot project of an "extra-territorial" area is in the works. "To organise a concert or an event in Piazza Transalpina everything must be done twice – explains the director – we need the Slovenian and Italian safety plan, we need Slovenian and Italian ambulances, we need Slovenian and Italian firefighters, and the two halves of the stage obey very different rules on the occupation of public land. A jungle! Yet in Brussels they are working to help us deal with the bottlenecks, and the solution could be useful for many other border situations".

The ideas that are arriving to feed the programme are the most diverse, from cross-border orchestras to cycle paths with cultural stops, from travelling cinema to concerts by young promises of classical music. "There is such a lively atmosphere of enthusiasm and collaboration that we can only be optimistic both on the progress of 2025 and on what will remain after", observes Gorazd Božič, who as a cross-border citizen nevertheless admits that he touches both iron (Italian style) and wood (Slovenian style). The main difficulties seem to have been overcome, including the criticisms of budget management, which in the summer of 2022 had seemed to drown all enthusiasm.

"Many wondered where all this money was going, when there was talk of millions of Euros for planning. The criticisms had no particular political roots, they were simply a widespread discontent, especially in Slovenia, rumours and controversies on social networks; but it was a little bit our fault, there was a lack of information, we weren't able to explain that planning would require time and resources. Before, for example, there were five of us, now there are thirteen and we are still hiring, and a lot of work is not seen. But now we are working hard and we are catching up, catching up on some delays and maintaining a more direct relationship with the outside world".

Il bid book, la candidatura nero su bianco

In just over a hundred pages , the candidacy of Nova Gorica and Gorizia as European Capital of Culture for 2025 is presented as a unique opportunity also for the European Union, a long-term strategy to "reverse the downward spiral by building a new cultural ecosystem". We talk about borders, historical and contemporary ones rearranged during the pandemic, we talk about culture and human rights, multilingualism and environmental protection, dance and refugee artists, murals and new radios.


This content is published in the context of the "Work4Future" project co-financed by the European Union (EU). The EU is in no way responsible for the information or views expressed within the framework of the project. The responsibility for the contents lies solely with OBC Transeuropa. Go to the "Work4Future"

I commenti, nel limite del possibile, vengono vagliati dal nostro staff prima di essere resi pubblici. Il tempo necessario per questa operazione può essere variabile. Vai alla nostra policy

blog comments powered by