Culture revives urban life in Albanian cities
City development begins when inhabitants recognise the specific potentials of their city and start creatively using these resources. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) helps the citizens of the Shkodra and Pogradecto revitalise their cities by building capacity. The project encourages creative solutions to problems in order to revive urban life. The definition of creative cities used in the project focuses on inclusiveness and capacity building. It recognises that creativity runs deeper than just the artistic profession –creativity can be found in all sectors and should be fostered amongst all citizens.
During the former dictatorial regime in Albania, the cultural life in cities was rigidly brought into line with the party's demands. In the years after the dictatorship, little was done for the cultural development of cities (apart from Tirana which benefited from its charismatic mayor, a former visual artist). Lack of money, unclear institutional responsibilities, a run-down infrastructure and the absence of a development strategy made cities fall into cultural lethargy.
The definition of creative cities that was adopted in the project reads as follows: “The essence of the Creative City idea is concerned with creating the conditions within which it is possible for people in a city to think, plan and act creatively using their local cultural resources as the main asset. It is, therefore, centrally focused on the organisational culture of a place, such as how open or closed minded it is, how transparent it is, how well NGO’s and the municipality work together or how capacity building is facilitated.”
Shkodra is historically the cultural capital of Albania. Nowadays, it is marginalised and run down, however. In Shkodra, the main focus is put on building up public space:
- painting of facades
- organising "creative coffees" as a meeting-point for discussions among artists, intellectuals and the inhabitants of Shkodra
- revitalising Shkodra's historical tradition of carnival
In Pogradec, the activities focus on existing cultural events:
- the poetry-festival is upgraded to a regional scale
- the tradition of puppet theatre is revitalised
- locally produced food and wines are being presented at special food and wine days
Pogradec' aim is to join the international "Slow City Movement" and offer authentic local goods - food and culture - without jeopardising nature and environment.
Innovative cultural services and events are used to support the transition process towards participation, integration and democracy, to strengthen cultural diversity and to promote open dialogue. The programme is supported by local businesses with the accent on the following:
- promotion of local structures through education and exchange of experience
- small regional actions
- cooperation projects with local partners
The programme is carried out by Pro Helvetia on behalf of the SDC.
The projects are not yet finished. The results are therefore not yet available.
In Pogradec, the main project objectives are:
- to change the image of the city and the mentality of the citizens through creative actions
- to improve the visual image of the city
- to transform Pogradec into a city of reflection on contemporary poetry and literature
- to revitalise the theatre and musical culture of the city
- to set up a gastronomy and tourism industry in line with European standards
In Shkodra the focus is on enhancing the physical environment of the city (buildings, streets etc.) and foster civic pride and citizenship. Here, the main objectives are:
- to transform Shkodra from a cradle of culture into a creative city with civic spirit as a catalyst
- to improve social-cultural life through the revitalisation of tradition by combining it with new ideas
- to improve quality of life by enhancing the built environment
Pro Helvetia Tirana
tel. +355 4 227855
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