Norway’s Bodø will be a 2024 European Capital of Culture

It will be the first Arctic city to do so.

By Siri Gulliksen Tømmerbakke, High North News - September 27, 2019
Wild cheers and overflowing tears greeted the announcement from Brussels that Bodø will become a European Capital of Culture for 2024. (Siri Gulliksen Tømmerbakke / High North News)

With a campaign that emphasized its Arctic location, Norway’s Bodø won the competition to become a European Capital of Culture 2024. It is the first time ever that this title is awarded to a city north of the Arctic Circle.

The chair of the EU’s cultural expert jury, Jiri Suchanek, made the official announcement at the House of European History in Brussels just before noon on Wednesday.

“This is fantastic! What a team victory,” said Bodø Mayor Ida Pinnerød immediately after the announcement was made.

Bodø competed against two Bosnian cities, Mostar and Banja Luka, for the ECoC 2024 title. It was a very anxious group of application organizers that met with the public during an event downtown Bodø Wednesday morning.

[Norway’s Bodø could be the first Arctic city named a European Capital of Culture]

“All cities have deserved their position on this shortlist,” said Suchanek, before announcing that Bodø was the winner.

Team victory

“This is the outcome of an enormous team effort and there are many who deserve a thank you,” said Arne Vinje, Head of Culture at Bodø municipality, on stage immediately after the announcement. He has been the project manager of Bodø 2024.

“This carries significance not only for Bodø, but for the entire Nordland county,” said County Councilor Tomas Norvoll.

Henrik Dagfinrud, who has been in charge of the artistic part of Bodø’s application and is one of the people who have worked on the application for two years, was clearly nervous before the live stream from the Brussels press conference.

However, when Suchanek said the name “Bodø”, instantaneous cheers broke out.

“Yes, okay, you are for or against it, but please do not forget that we are the coolest city in Norway!,”Dagfinrud said. “If we now prove able to carry out everything written in the application, and more, there are so many things that can emerge. And I hope, with four years to go, that we succeed in reaching those we have not been able to reach yet, so that this shall feel as a giant leap for the whole city and the whole county.”

Arctic footprints

The EU interest and footprint in the Arctic is growing. The application from Bodø2024, emphasizing the city’s Arctic location, has thus hit the mark, Norvoll believes.

“Now we can help build a new bridge between us and Europe, based on cultural cooperation,” he says in a press release. “In fact, this is our greatest High North project ever. With the experiences we are to create together, we will have friends and cooperation partners who will open doors for us at a later stage. That will be important for us in the future when we are taking new steps into the world, for instance when creating new international events, meeting places and European projects.”

A delegation from Bodø and Nordland were in Brussels when the decision was announced. It was a quite thrilled and proud group that received the news from their seats in the audience.

“When we heard the jury chairman say “Bodø”, we jumped to our feed with embraces, cheers and tears of joy. We really felt that it was deserved. This is a great day for Bodø and Nordland, and I do not think we quite realize how big this is. This will create a level of activity and attraction that we have not quite managed to realize yet,” says Chairman of the Board for Bodø2024, Bodø municipality’s Chief Executive Rolf Kåre Jensen.

He was present in Brussels at the announcement Wednesday together with Stig Fossum from Nord University, Geir Knutson from Nordland County, Trud Berg and Ellen Sæthre-McGuirk from the presentation committee that had met with the jury the day before.

“That feeling when Bodø was announced was almost indescribable. I definitely shed some tears of joy,” said a proud and emotional Trud Berg from the Bodø2024 project organization.