Cultured Copenhagen

Lisbeth Armand

Copenhagen '96

Copenhagen is the 12th in the series of European cities of culture since Athens first donned the mantle in 1985. The cities selected are free to determine the level of their ambitions and to define the nature of their particular city of culture. Copenhagen '96 is the most ambitious project to date - financially, politically and, of course, artistically.

Copenhagen '96 demonstrated to the Danes that all its ideas and ambitions were more than just hot air when they materialised into a wide variety of events catering for all tastes. Since the national opening on New Year's Eve at the renovated City Hall Square and the official inauguration on 12 January with the European Roots Festival of traditional music, Copenhagen has really moved forward.

Copenhagen '96 has been an overwhelming success; audiences have poured in to experience the events. During the first three months, 400,000 'new' tickets were sold to museums, concerts and performances.

When Copenhagen set out on the journey towards 1996, it was with the intention of 'doing it big'. Not for the sake of being big, but for the sake of really getting Copenhagen's cultural life off the ground - nationally and internationally. An ambitious budget of DKK750 million - divided into three equal parts - was the aim. This aim was more than met.

Because an underlying philosophy of the initiative was that Copenhagen '96 should be not only local (ie, focused on the city of Copenhagen) but also regional and international, the secretariat addressed municipal and county levels of Danish administration (the 'kommuner' and 'amter'), the Danish State and international organisations.

The municipal and county levels of government were asked for the first third of the budget, and gave it.

The Danish State expressed its willingness to double the stakes and put in another DKK 250 million.

The remaining third of the budget was derived from two major sources: private sponsorships accounted for DKK104 million and cultural exchange foundations and others (in Denmark and abroad) and the European Union accounted for DKK225 million.

At the end of 1995, the total budget, including the initial allocation from the 'founding fathers' to run the secretariat from 1992 to mid-1997 and expected ticket sales, approached DKK1 billion.

Apart from the City of Copenhagen, five neighbouring counties, 42 local authorities and a multitude of private organisations and associations have joined the financing, planning, and creation of Copenhagen '96.

An independent foundation, Kobenhauns Kulturby Fond '96, was established in 1992 and headed by the City of Copenhagen, including the City of Frederiksberg, the counties of Copenhagen, Roskilde and Frederiksberg, and the Ministry of Culture. Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark is the official protector of the foundation. The board consists of 11 politically appointed members, with the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, Mr Jens Kramer Mikkelsen, as chairman.

From the very beginning, it was clear that Copenhagen 1996 should encompass more than just another arts programme: with this in mind, the programmes were planned in accordance with three guidelines which interacted to create Copenhagen 1996. These three considerations were art, the physical surroundings and the people who live in the city. The result of these considerations meant that Copenhagen 1996 included purely artistic projects, as well as activities focusing on, for example, the environment and urban ecology, or activities concerning the city's children or its history.

During the four-year planning process, hundreds of meetings were held at all levels of the cultural scene - from grass roots to the elite. The purpose was to define the content and nature of Copenhagen '96 within the different art forms and genres, bearing in mind that Copenhagen '96 was not supposed to be just 'more of the same old stuff' but was supposed to instil new life, provide greater inspiration and pave the way for new networks and friendship between artists and others involved in cultural life.

Several of the ten main objectives for Copenhagen '96 were clearly reflected in the programme: for example, the aims to 'assure broad involvement in art and culture', 'make visible the multiplicity and qualities of culture and art' and 'set focus on international trends in contemporary creative art' were well met.

Culture in Copenhagen - and those that went to see it - enjoyed a year of guest appearances, festivals, exhibitions, premieres, new productions, the opening of completely new cultural institutions and a programme focusing on everything from urban ecology to children's culture. The programme contained 600 different projects, of which some were just a single concert or exhibition while others covered ten to 15 concerts, performances or other types of event.

For further information: The Copenhagen '96 Information Centre on the City Hall Square, 1550 Kbh. V. is open every day from 9am to 10pm. Tel: +45 33 77 96 97.
Copenhagen Tourist Information, Bernstorffsgade 1, 1577 Kbh. V. Tel: +45 33 11 13 25. Fax: +45 33 93 49 69.
Tickets for most events are available on the electronic reservations networks START, APOLLO, GTS and SMART accessible from major travel agents.