Why I am batting for #Balvi2027

Exciting news June 14. Latvia will have another European Capital of Culture in 2027. That gives us just ten years of flattery and free goody bags in order to win an honor that would be ours anyway.  

I know this because I went to the announcement of the 'winner' the last time Latvia hosted a European Capital of Culture in 2014.

A rotund member of the English aristocracy who was chairman of the judging panel - I forget his name, so let's call him Lord Dimm-Whittington - expounded at some length on the wonderful hospitality he had encountered while assessing the rival claims of Riga, Cesis and Liepaja to be a European Capital of Culture. It sounded more like he was working for the Michelin restaurant guide than the European Commission.

He drew attention to the fact that Vilnius and Tallinn had both been capitals of culture already, and how it wasn't necessarily the case that capital cities were always capitals of culture - that smaller towns could offer more unusual and memorable things away from the great metropoles. Then he said he and his team had chosen Riga.

It was a bit of a disappointment and inevitably gave rise to a certain suspicion among we cynical reporters that perhaps the whole selection process was a put-up job.

Riga of course did a perfectly decent job as European Capital of Culture for 2014 alongside some place in Sweden that I also forget. I have no doubt that at this moment somewhere in Sweden a journalist is writing about how in 2014 Umea was a capital of culture along with, er, some place across the Baltic before you reach Russia.

The Capital of Culture tag has never been quite as prestigious since they decided to have two instead of one. It's a bit like having a mayor and a vice-mayor appearing on the same platform all the time. Everyone knows the mayor is really in charge, but somehow the mere presence of his toady vice mayor reduces his stature. Only one of them is really required, and any time the vice-mayor is sent instead of the mayor, it feels a bit second-rate.

Balvi uber alles

So with a selection necessary for Latvia's Capital of Culture in 2027 I propose a new method: just pick Balvi. Here is the hashtag: #Balvi2027. By providing this hashtag for free I have already saved Latvia about 100,000 euros that would otherwise have been wasted on PR agency fees.

Balvi is a city, Balvi is in Latvia, Balvi has a nice art center, Balvi could do with some publicity. That is the main thrust of my manifesto for #Balvi2027.

But there are some even more compelling reasons to choose Balvi. NOW.

First, we save ourselves the bother, expense and embarassment of having to kow-tow to institutional freeloaders like Lord Dimm-Whittington. Presumably Brexit means he will now be restricted to sampling the wares of fish and chip shops in Bridlington and cream teas in Bourton-on-the-Water before awarding one of them a rosette (non-EU members can have capitals of culture too but let's face it, in the UK's case that ain't gonna happen), but doubtless lapsed members of the Bourbon or Hapsburg dynasties would be happy to take his place if we let them.

So our hospitality offering should be this: a free place to pitch a tent and a free plate of sandwiches beside Lake Balvi (the main lake at Balvi). I am prepared to fund this from my own pocket and even make the sandwiches for any Landgraf or Comte who wishes to take up the offer. 

That's another 100,000 euros I just saved taxpayers. 

Another advantage of #Balvi2027 will be its anti-corruption capability. Let's say for the sake of argument some dodgy foreign businessman in a shiny suit showed up in Balvi saying he was going to put on a circus extravaganza that would generate millions for the local economy.

According to his plan, the clowns, jugglers, lion-tamers and trapeze artists would all pay him money to attend, the local council and EU would chip in with funds and maybe the whole thing could be televized, with broadcasters paying him for the rights. In return, he would do most of the organization and book all the hotel rooms for a small commission on each booking. 

It would certainly provide a memorable weekend in Balvi and probably a great few days of circus entertainment. After all, having spent their own money, the jugglers would want to really juggle well.

But if the local Balvi town councillors started driving round in Bentleys and Maybachs the week after the circus had rolled into town, it would send a clear signal that perhaps not all the public money had gone on red noses and juggling balls and that maybe the man in the shiny suit had cut a few private deals on the side. In a massive metropolis with huge sums of cash sloshing around as a matter of routine, probably no-one would notice such things. But in Balvi, it would be quite obvious that something was amiss. Balvi is graft-resistant.

That's another 100,000 euros I just saved. At least.

The final reasons to choose Balvi are the most compelling. In a town like Balvi it would make a real difference. No-one would know exactly what to expect. No-one has preconceived notions about Balvi (unless you come from Gulbene). Isn't culture supposed to be, at least partly, about imagination and experiment?

So let's give Europe only one option in 2027: Balvi. 

Just tell me your preferred sandwich filling.


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