European Cultural Capitals

European Cultural Capitals                                                                                                


In collaboration with Robert Palmer and Diane Dodd of ArtIdea, TRAM is engaged in a wide range of research and advice work related to the European Capital of Culture (ECOC) event.

Robert Palmer is widely acknowledged as the leading expert in the field of European Cultural Capitals, having directed two previous events: Glasgow in 1990 and Brussels in 2000. Robert has also advised the European Commission and many of the cities on the design and implementation of the ECOC programme. Robert directed the evaluation of the ECOC between 1995 and 2004 for the European Commission and was special adviser to an 18 month process of evaluation of 12 cities in the UK, and selection of Liverpool as ECOC for 2008.

Greg Richards has been engaged in researching and analysing the ECOC event since 1999, producing reports on the ECOCs in Rotterdam and Porto (2001) and Salamanca (2002) as well as contributing to the 2004 report to the European Commission. In 2007 he completed the evaluations for both of the ECOCs in that year - Luxemburg and Sibiu (Romania). You can download a copy of the Luxemburg European Capital of Culture 2007 report here. The final report for Sibiu European Capital of Culture 2007 can be ordered from the ATLAS bookshop. The long-term monitoring study for Sibiu over the period 2001-2009 you can  download here. He also gave advice on the production of the Final Report for Stavanger in 2008 - the text of which you can download here. Greg was one of the advisors on the successful ECOC bid of Plovdiv in Bulgaria (2019) and is advising Valletta, Malta on their research and evaluation programme. He also produced reports on the ECOCs in Guimaraes, Portugal (2012) and Maribor (2012), which can also be ordered from ATLAS.

We are always happy to talk to cities and regions about their plans for the ECOC or other major cultural events. Please contact Greg Richards for more information.

As part of this ongoing work, we have now produced a series of European Cultural Capital Reports, which update and expand the work carried out by Palmer/Rae in 2004. The fifth  volume of the report (published in 2014) is available from the ATLAS bookshop.

The European Cultural Capital event (ECOC) is arguably one of the most successful EU cultural programmes, attracting increasing interest from policy makers, academics and the media every year. As more and more cities are involved in competing for the ECOC title, there is also a growing need for information about and evaluation of the event and the host cities.
The European Cultural Capital Report aims to update the wealth of information contained in the original ECOC evaluation report produced by Robert Palmer, Greg Richards and other experts for the European Commission. In doing so, it aims to provide essential information for those organising, implementing and evaluating the ECOC.
This report seeks to cover the many different aspects of the event, including its cultural, economic, organisational, political and social implications. It provides an independent analysis of the ECOC, identifying trends and best practice which can help those involved with this and other major cultural events to take better informed decisions. By extending and enriching the data collected for the Palmer Report, this publication will provide new insights into the workings and function of the ECOC.
Regular updates will be produced which will keep a finger on the pulse of the ECOC and its stakeholders, providing timely and relevant information. Each edition of the ECOC Report will concentrate on different themes related to the ECOC, as well as featuring case studies of different cities or different aspects of management and organisation. This first issue concentrates on profiling the host cities in general and identifying trends in economic issues. In forthcoming issues, the spotlight will be turned on other issues, such as organisational issues, marketing, economic impact studies and tourism flows.
This publication should be of interest to all those involved in the planning, organisation, analysis and assessment of the ECOC, as well as cultural events in general.


Main Contents, volume 1 (October 2007):
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Programme trends
    • Seasonal programmes
    • Multi-annual programmes
    • The European Dimension
  • Selection Procedures
  • The Host and Candidate Cities
    • Regional partnerships
  • Economic Impacts
    • Operating costs
    • Capital costs
    • The budget
    • The cultural programme
    • Marketing
    • Infrastructure
    • Cultural spending
    • Tourism impacts
    • Business and employment impacts
    • Legacy of the ECOC
    • Critical success factors
    • Shortcomings
    • Overall assessment
    • How does Lille 2004 compare with other ECOCs?
    • Sources
  • Building for the future: the Legacy of the ECOC
  • Bibliography

Main Contents, Volume 2 (January 2009):

  • Introduction	
  • Methods									
  • News, trends and developments					
2008: Liverpool and Stavanger
2009: Linz and Vilnius
2010: Pécs – too little too late?
2010: Istanbul – new models for management?
2010: Essen for the Ruhr?
Future candidate cities
Programming trends
Regions as Cultural Capitals
  • The new ECOC selection process						
  • Media coverage and marketing						
  • ECOC Legacies 								
2005 – 2006: The lost years?
Sibiu – building pride in the city
  • Case Study - Impact of Luxemburg and Greater Region 2007				
    Aims and objectives
    The budget
    The cultural programme
    Marketing and communications
    Cultural spending
    Tourism impacts
    Business and employment impacts
    Legacy of the ECOC 
    Comparing 1995 and 2007
    Critical success factors
    Overall assessment and lessons for other cities from Luxemburg 2007
  • Cultural capital clones - the Arab Capital of Culture		
  • Bibliography									

Main Contents, Volume 3 (January 2011):

1. Introduction

2. Methods

3. News, Trends and development

3.1 Brussels 25th anniversary event

3.2 Spiralling bidding costs

3.3 From cultural planning to risk mitigation

3.4 2010 Istanbul – serving its citizens?

3.5 The regional dimension?

3.6 ECoC’s under pressure – the effect of the economic recession

3.7 Vilnius and Cork – failed cities?

3.8 Governance problems

3.9 Future candidate cities

3.10 ECoC research

4. The ECoC selection process

5. Tourism and the ECoC

6. ECoC legacies

7. Case study - Stavanger

8. Cultural capital crazy

9. Bibliography

10. Previous report contents

Main Contents Volume 4 (October 2012)

1 Introduction

2 Methods

3 News, trends and developments

3.1 How much does bidding for the ECOC cost?

3.2 How much does it cost to stage the ECOC?

3.3 Volunteering

3.4 ECOC programming strategies

3.5 Airlines - a crucial success factor?

3.6 New Europe and PIIGS countries provide financial headaches

3.7 From regeneration to peace process

3.8 Developing the European Dimension

3.9 Alternative funding models

4 The ECOC selection process - transparency a growing issue

5 Future of the ECOCs � 2020 and beyond

6 Media attention for ECOC cities as tourist destinations

6.1 An ECOC attention cycle?

7 ECOC legacies - a longer term view

8 Case study Tallinn, 2011

8.1 Introduction

8.2 Aims and objectives

8.3 Organisation

8.4 Budget

8.5 The cultural programme

8.6 Marketing and communications

8.7 Infrastructure

8.8 Cultural spending

8.9 Tourism impacts

8.10 Business and employment impacts

8.11 Legacy of the ECOC

8.12 Critical success factors

8.13 Shortcomings

8.14 Overall conclusions and lessons for other cities

8.15 How does Tallinn 2011 compare with other ECOCs?

9 Cultural Capitals around the world

10 Bibliography


Volume 5 (2014)



  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Methods
  • 3. News, trends and developments
    • 3.1 Bidding for the ECOC and dealing with disappointment
    • 3.2 Infrastructure projects winning citizen support?
    • 3.3 Audience development - a new Commission priority
    • 3.4 Airlines getting the ECOC bug
    • 3.5 European Dimension - a balancing act
    • 3.6 ECOC glory snatching
    • 3.7 Before and after the ECOC
    • 3.8 Culture and conflict
  • 4. European Capitals of Culture: Success Strategies and Long-Term Effects
  • 5. ECOC selection process - lessons from the Dutch selection for 2018
  • 6. Social media innovations - a gimmick or god send?
  • 7 .Evaluation - impacts and indicators
  • 8. ECOC legacies - a longer term view
  • 9. Case study Guimaraes 2012
    • 9.1 Introduction
    • 9.2 Aims and objectives
    • 9.3 Organisation
    • 9.4 Budget
    • 9.5 The cultural programme
    • 9.6 Marketing and communications
    • 9.7 Infrastructure
    • 9.8 Tourism impacts
    • 9.9 Image impacts
    • 9.10 Business and employment impacts
    • 9.11 Legacies of the ECOC
    • 9.12 Critical success factors
    • 9.13 Shortcomings
    • 9.14 Overall conclusions and lessons for other cities
    • 9.15 How does Guimaraes 2012 compare with other ECOCs?
  • 10. Cultural Capitals around the world
  • 11. Bibliography collected sources 2012-2013
  • 12. Previous report contents


The authors:
Greg Richards is Professor of Leisure Studies at Tilburg University and Professor in Events at NHTV Breda in the Netherlands. He has been involved in researching and evaluating the ECOC programme for more than a decade. He has conducted surveys during a number of ECOC events, including Rotterdam (2001), Porto (2001), Salamanca (2002) Sibiu (2007) and Guimaraes (2012). He also organised an international cultural event as a project in the Sibiu ECOC. He has also published widely on the impacts of the ECOC and was a member of the Palmer Report team in 2004. In 2005 he was appointed to the international jury for the selection of the 2010 ECOC in Hungary.
Diane Dodd

Diane Dodd is a freelance consultant in the field of international cultural co-operation and local strategies for cultural development. Since 2007, Diane has worked for IFACCA (International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies) on European affairs and is a contributor to IFACCA’s international news bulletin, ACORNS. In 2006, she developed and continues to co-ordinate ConnectCP - an international online database of experts on cultural policy, planning and research.

She is currently working on the third European Capitals of Culture report with TRAM-Research (UK) and carrying out consultancy work for Fundación Burgos 2016 in preparation for their bid to be European Capital of Culture 2016 (Spain). She is the editor for the I and II Handbook on Cultural Management for the European Cultural Foundation (Netherlands).


Robert Palmer

Robert Palmer is an independent cultural adviser who works regularly on international projects and assignments. He has worked in the cultural sector for more than 20 years, and has advised the European Commission, Council of Europe and 10 different European Cultural Institutes on cultural matters. In 2004 he directed the evaluation team which produced the Palmer Report on the European Capitals of Culture for the European Commission. His experience as the Director of two Capitals of Culture - Glasgow in 1990 and Brussels in 2000 - made him uniquely qualified for the job. He was formerly Director of Culture and Cultural and National Heritage at the Council of Europe. He managed a range of more than 60 different work programmes including the monitoring of cultural and heritage policies, capacity building projects and training seminars, and activities linked to cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue to major exhibitions (

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For more information on Cultural Capital research, contact:

Greg Richards, TRAM Barcelona