MAASTRICHT. It wasn’t Maastricht, but Leeuwarden that was declared European Cultural Capital for 2018 last Friday. A great disappointment for the city, the thirteen partners and the leaders of the project. The jury was scourged in the media last weekend. They were supposedly “biased” and “cowardly”. Observant probed the opinions within Maastricht University.
Rein de Wilde, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, points out the numerous false reasons that have been aired in the media over the past few days “for the blow dealt to us by Leeuwarden. Understandable, under the circumstances: those who are turned down are always inclined to place the blame on the evaluator.” But, De Wilde says, those who complain are forgetting the most important thing. The jury first and foremost looks at the cultural programme of the three remaining candidates (Eindhoven was in the race until the end). “You can define that term very broadly, but artistic quality is always an essential part. And I can only conclude that, having read both prospectuses – Maastricht and Leeuwarden – Leeuwarden excels in this area.”
The governor of Limburg, Theo Bovens, spoke very sensible words after the jury’s announcement, says De Wilde: “We don’t need a plan B but a plan C, for Culture. Eighty cultural institutes in the region have taken on this challenge with verve and signed a declaration of intent for a joint alternative programme. Let’s call this programme ‘Grenzeloos 14-18’ (Boundless 14-18), lasting five years and for the whole region, without any Maastricht dominance.”
Second-year student of European Studies, Mignon Schichel, on an Erasmus scholarship abroad at the moment, organised an art exhibition at her faculty last year, plays in the university orchestra, and participated in a research project about the identity of the region around Maastricht. “I think it is a pity that we didn’t get the title. Maastricht puts its focus on the whole region and shows how you can think beyond borders. I am proud of that, it creates solidarity.”
“It would be a shame if the positive energy that has come out of this, were now lost,” says Fons Elbersen, spokesperson for the Executive Board. “It would be great if it was possible to maintain that energy and use it to realise a plan B. “