2010 Culture Capital Ruhr Program

The industry which has shaped the history and culture of Germany's Ruhr area for over 200 years is in decline. Unemployment is high, and many factories, warehouses and hangers lie empty. If the region is to survive, it must reinvent itself, said Fritz Pleitgen to Deutsche Welle. A former director general of the western German broadcaster WDR, which serves the state of Northrhine-Westfalia where the Ruhr area is located, and former president of the European Broadcasting Union, Pleitgen is the man behind the region's 2010 Culture Capital program. "We are working hard to get rid of the old image of the Ruhr area" he said in his interview.  "People outside the Ruhr area believe that this is still a run-down industrial region with wrecked, grey cities and a poisoned landscape. That is not true anymore. We have our problems, but we are very rich with cultural events, we are very rich with innovative industry and we now have good results with science." With slogans like "the Ruhr breathes culture not coal", Pleitgen's program aims to radically transform the Ruhr identity. Critics of Pleitgen's vision claim that the idea of a Ruhr metropolis is illusory and that the attempt to reinvent the Ruhr identity represents an artificial imposition on the region and its inhabitants. Whether the Culture Capital's wake-up call succeeds in forging a new metropolitan identity in the Ruhr remains to be seen. What is certain, however, is that the region is mobilizing itself. With 300 projects and 2,500 events planned over the coming year, there will be plenty of opportunities for the Ruhr to prove that it can indeed "breathe culture, not coal."


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