In the Alentejo, no one sings alone. Évora 2027 is a collective process, permanently under construction, based on the active participation of all people who want to join a transforming project for the city and the region.
In February 2023, Évora was designated European Capital of Culture by the Portuguese Ministry of Culture, after the recommendation of the expert panel evaluating the applications pronounced on December 07, 2022. However, the selection process started much earlier. Évora announced the intention of being a candidate for European Capital of Culture in November 2017, at the International Cultural Heritage Show in Paris.
This intention reflected a political commitment based on the constitution of an Executive Committee, led by the Municipality of Évora, responsible for the candidacy’s overall coordination. Such partnership enabled us to gather not only the fundamental skills needed to respond the application process, but also to acept this challenge as one for the city, for the Central Alentejo, and for the Alentejo region. Throughout the entire application process, the Executive Committee met regularly to develop all the preparatory work, including several studies, visits to other cities awarded the European Capital of Culture title, workshops, and the establishment of the Mission Team responsible for the technical development of the application.Being a candidacy of a city and an entire region, Évora 2027 has the support of 47 municipalities of the Alentejo, represented in the Intermunicipal Communities of the Alentejo: CIM Central Alentejo, Alto Alentejo, Baixo Alentejo and Alentejo Litoral.
“At the Convent” is an invitation to the artistic and cultural sector of the Alentejo to present the sector's proposals for collaboration and participation in the year of the title, 2027, and the period that precedes it. The first “At the Convent” meeting with artists and creatives from all areas and from all over the territory took place at Convento dos Remédios, in Évora, in August 2022, and is still bearing fruit, bringing together and connecting people and communities in an extensive territory. In this meeting it was jointly decided that, in the context of the European Capital of Culture, a large open call will be launched, addressed to cultural agents of the entire region. In addition to advocating the submission of concrete and realistic proposals, participants also agreed that the process transparency is the most important issue to take into account.
Besides "At the Convent", the involvement of local artists and cultural organisations in the construction of Évora 2027 has been permanent, undertaking several meetings in which, in an active dialogue, we have deepened the most relevant topics for this sector. Among the issues raised in these different meetings, later expressed in the cultural and artistic programme, are the relationship with the rural context, the connection to the Roma community, the role of cultural heritage, the issue of monoculture, accessibility and mobility, and the ability to ensure funding and international cooperation, among many other topics.
Around a table, we eat, drink and learn a lot! “À Mesa é que a Gente se Entende” stems from Évora 2027's will to meet people and communities in order to talk and exchange ideas about what Europe's largest cultural event can bring to the Alentejo, as well as what the Alentejo people can bring to the European Capital of Culture. Throughout the application process, in several meetings hosted by local citizens to welcome Évora 2027, the Mission Team sat at the table with the region's communities and collectives to discuss themes, projects and issues with relevance to people's lives. At home or outdoors, in neighborhoods, communities and associations, on the city streets and squares or in the countryside, we took the “talego” and a lot of willingness to listen, and we came back even more inspired. The project will go on, and between 2023 and 2028 we will continue to sit at table with Évora, the Alentejo, Portugal and Europe.
Bringing the European Capital of Culture close to the people, to inform, share, listen, inspire and be inspired, has been one of the goals of Évora 2027 since the beginning. Still in the application process, and with the restrictions imposed by two years of pandemic, we started 2022 with a presentation session of the bid book, open to the community, in a place of gathering and sharing: Évora's Municipal Market. This event was followed by several sessions, aimed at specific audiences, in other significant places in the city, such as Dom Manuel's Palace.
In June 2022, we met the locals at the São João Fair, in an Évora 2027 pavilion, and throughout summer we continued to bring Évora to various parts of the city and region, from the Public Garden, to the Giraldo Square, to Montemor-o-Novo “Feira da Luz”, always close to the people, co-creating the city we all aspire to. We were in Osaka, Canada, at the UNESCO World Heritage Cities meeting, and in Hiroshima, Japan, with the Mayors for Peace organisation, and co-representing the Alentejo in several international events. On our way to 2027, we will continue to bring Évora to the Alentejo, to Portugal, to Europe, and to the world.
What does it mean to be from Alentejo? How do we imagine Alentejo’s future? How do we wish to take part in that future?
Despite the constraints imposed by the pandemic, the local population and civil society's engagement in the preparation of the candidacy and execution of the title year is an essential part of Évora's identity as a candidate for European Capital of Culture in 2027. A design that entails not just providing chances for this engagement, but also ensuring that communities are better prepared to participate continuously. To this goal, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Évora and the Universidade Nova de Lisboa (comprising sociologists, anthropologists and geographers) was arranged. Additionally, in collaboration with the Évora 2027 Mission Team, a program of engagement and involvement of the local community, known as "The Voice that Matters," was launched. The overall goal is to increase civil society's appropriation and appreciation of the candidacy. This programme, which extends to the area of the Central Alentejo surrounding Évora, will take place in three phases between 2021 and 2028.
In 2021, an online survey was launched on the expectations and intentions of the Alentejo population and communities regarding Évora's bid for European Capital of Culture in 2027. And we promoted a number of discussion groups specifically aimed at young people and people over the age of 65. Through stories, daily practises and images presented and discussed, participants were asked to share their perceptions on the region's past, present and future.
Some pilot projects were also launched to discuss the European Capital of Culture process, and they will run until 2027, with the goal of attracting and involving as many people as possible in a collaborative project that is built collectively.
Which words or images describe Évora? Which sound, object or image best represents the Alentejo?
The aim of involving the local population and civil society is part of the whole application, and it also extends to the Communication and Marketing strategy. After launching the motto “Anda Acreditando” and an initial visual environment made up of lines waiting to be filled in, a cycle of graphic design workshops “Outlining the visual identity” was created to invite the community to take part in the construction of Évora 2027's visual identity, which will be ongoing until 2028. The goal is for the outcomes of these workshops to be included into the visual culture of Évora 2027.
These workshops, led by the duo of designers Lizá Defossez Ramalho and Artur Rebelo, R2, responsible for creating the visual language of the candidacy, are aimed at different audiences, from the most specialised to the least experienced in the field of graphic design, from children to elders. They seek to address tools and methods of creation and collective thinking, as well as collect and/or gauge perceptions and images about Évora and the Alentejo that can be reflected in the visual language of Évora 2027.
Music is also an expression of a process and of a candidacy, inexhaustible, which flows and vibrates, and is projected into the future, based on a uniquely intangible heritage.
In Évora, and in the Alentejo, musicality is one of the strongest features of its pulse. This is why the Évora 2027 Mission Team has challenged four musicians from Évora to create the Évora 2027 soundscape. "O Céu do Pastor" (The Shepherd’s Sky) is an original by António Bexiga [Tó-Zé Bexiga], António Pinto de Sousa, Mestre André and Dj Sims, with Vozes do Imaginário, directed by Luís Pereira.
#BEING is a cycle of mini-documentaries aiming to present and acknowledge several projects developed in the Alentejo in such diverse areas as innovation/research, documentation/archiving, cultural entrepreneurship, artistic residences/artistic projects, popular art, heritage and natural resources, archaeology, architecture, and constructed heritage. The programme has achieved the goal of valuing and granting national and international scale to different agents who shape and transform the Alentejo, while also making them partners and close to the application. Between 2023 and 2025, we will keep producing the mini-documentary cycle #SENDO, now as part of Évora 2027's programming.