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San Sebastian / Donostia 2016
Friday 08 April 2016

« Culture para la convivencia » (culture for coexistence) : how much more relevant could a 5 year-old theme be today ? It is the issue Donostia/San Sebastian chose to highlight throughout 2016. Since the start of the year indeed, the beautiful coastal town has been living up to its European Capital of Culture (ECoC) status.

Why this issue of coexistence ? It is because Donostia/San Sebastian, 186, 000 souls at the heart of the Basque Country, has experienced the same troubles as all those territories that have been torn apart. Nationalisms have proved they can be bloody throughout the city's history, and for that Donostia/San Sebastian is not different from our continent ; but Culture and Arts can be a factor for peace, and together they can contribute to the quality of political debates. Since 2011, the year when the city was designated EcoC and the year when ETA ceased fire, « Culture for Coexistence » in Donostia/San Sebastian echoes beyond the city's limits and 2016's temporality.

Three ideas animate this year's programme : individuals/citizens participation to the construction of their society (Lighthouse of Life), they do so according to values of mutual respect (Lighthouse of Peace), and work towards mutually understanding their diversity (Lighthouse of Voices). It is in the perspective of these three ideas that DSS2016's programmation was undertaken in a participative spirit : each and everyone shall have a rôle in building culture and coexistence all along the years' 100 projects and 500 cultural events. More than 500 artists, locals and foreigners, are participating, as well as the city's and the region's inhabitants, added to international visitors. Indeed, DSS2016  organisers wish to deconstruct the traditional spectator/artist dual relationship, in order to build a more inclusive form of creative practice. Moreoever, « Wave of Energy » programme was destined to encourage creation with subsidising some 2,016/20,160 euro-grants to selected applicants. Selected projects will be regularly presented throughout the year.

Attracting curious minds from all the corners of Europe is not enough : DSS2016 wants to export via its travelling embassies. 10, 000 sq. Meters of Europe will be covered by bus, bike or even boat so that DSS2016 embassies can contribute to linking and promoting inter-cultural understanding in our continent's varied communities. Each embassy is carrying out one of this year's Lighthouses (Life, Peace, Voices) : stay tuned with DSS2016 programme to know whether one of them will visit your town !
According to organisers, Donostia/San Sebastian EcoC is a tribute to the city, to its citizens but also to Europe at large. This year should make a long-lasting impact with offering the city a sustainable, universal heritage. DSS2016 is decisively turning its gaze toward the future of culture and creativity : projects indeed have a focus on learning about and making creative use of technology – Hirikia -, promoting mediation in creative processes – Hazitegiak -, fostering linguistic diversity – 284+ -, deepening autonomisation and citizens' participation to the life of society – Bestelab-, stimulating critical thought through contemporary art – Pagadi.

DSS2016 is also the opportunity to highlight the dynamic of the Basque Country's cities, The most renowned example of it – Bilbao – shows to what extent culture can be a factor for developing territories. Both cities are different, but complementary in the way they integrate culture to their development plans. On the one hand, the team of DSS2016 associated with the municipality so that the event could be taking its part in the territory's renewal that was initiated in 2010 with a programme of sustainable transition. DSS2016 also associated with Tabakalera (the city's contemporary art centre) to leave an enduring print. Finally, it will be interesting to assess the impact of 2016 EcoC on the future of the city and the region. The Basque country, a new hub for culture at the service of territories ?