The city of Matera, Italy, was chosen as the European Capital of Culture 2019. Since it assumed this title it has put on a range of events to prove it truly deserves it.
The European Capital of Culture is a title awarded on a yearly basis by the European Commission. The winning city is expected to put on a series of pan-European cultural events. Cities can submit proposals to an international panel. The panel assesses cities based on a criteria set by the European Union which includes if a city has potential to benefit socially and economically from the title.
The programme started in 1985 - Athens was the first city to receive it. Since then a total of 40 cities have been assigned the title with 9 different countries earning it in 2000 at the turn of the millennium. This year Matera and Plovdiv, Bulgaria, share the title.
Matera is famous for its ancient cave drawing in Sassi, its historical centre. These date back to the Paleolithic period meaning they were created around 10,000 BC. This earned it the nickname "the underground city". It has a population of over 60,000
Gardentopia is a project designed to reinvigorate abandoned parts of the city. People of all ages are encouraged to give up some of their time to give back to the community - they plant flowerbeds, gardens and vegetables in suburbs and places on the margin of the city centre. This is coordinated by artist and landscape gardeners alike who work with the volunteers.
This programme also involves talks and events in the gardens of Matera and across the region, Basilicata. The aim is to create a festival spirit and inform people on the benefits of urban regeneration.
300 residents have volunteered. A few of them spoke to Euronews:
"We follow the events, we are in the city to attend all the activities we can, we help give information, we meet lots of people. We couldn’t ask for more."
One family was volunteering together:
"It’s an opportunity to make the most of, to live, to feel. And maybe, I hope, I will be able to share my experience with anyone who asks me: "how was it? What did you do? Did you like it? Did you enjoy yourself?"”
A cultural project for kids called "Heritage in Game" raises awareness of Basilicata's artistic and cultural past. It involves 60 classes for primary and lower secondary schools and will teach children the history of the region in a more relaxed environment.
Secondary school students get to use a 3D printer to create objects that relate to the regions history while trying to put their own modern spin on them.
One of the city's proudest events is a re-adapted production of "Purgatory" originally from the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, now put on the stage by Marco Martinelli and Ermanna Montanari. The whole cast is made up of residents from Matera. The play involves the audience as well. Euronews spoke to the director, Marco Martinelli:
"The idea of this show comes from how Dante’s Divine Comedy starts: a man lost in a dark forest. From there, that man starts his trip from darkness to the Light. We thought that we should make our audience live this experience properly, instead of making them feel detached, they feel included."
"The participation has been wonderful because the residents, like every human being, just want to feel considered. That’s what we tried to do: we didn’t use them as extras. We looked everyone of them in the eyes."