In accordance with its strategy for urban development based on creativity and supported on an investment in cultural heritage and activities of an artistic, creative and cultural nature, Amarante has decided to apply for the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, or the UCCN.
This UNESCO Network, created in 2004 aims to promote cooperation among cities that signal creativity, art and culture as strategic factors for urban sustainable development, through the choice of cultural and creative industries as the main focus of their governmental policy, including them in action plans for local growth and international cooperation. Nowadays, the UCCN encompasses several creative fields, from the Crafts & Folk Art, Media Arts, Film, Design, Gastronomy, Literature and Music – while integrating 116 cities around the world, of which only two of them, Óbidos and Idanha-a-Nova, are Portuguese.
Cities included in this Network commit themselves to enlarge their cooperation and partnership projects on an international level and share a set of good practices in relating with other member cities. On a local level, they should engage on initiatives aimed at strengthening creative, cultural and artistic activities and their aspects of creation, production, distribution and dissemination.
At the same time they are to increase opportunities for creatives and professionals integrated in the creative and cultural sector and better mechanisms for public access and participation in the city’s cultural activity, giving particular attention to vulnerable groups and individuals. All in all, cities should integrate creativity and culture in their plans for a local sustainable development.
Amarante has a deep historical connection to the creation and fruition of the arts, culture and thought, with music having a special place in this relationship. Three main aspects stand out from a group of assets and dynamics associated with music.
Firstly, an ethnographic, popular and amateur element, which includes the manufacturing of the ‘violas amarantinas’ and the presence of three centenary philharmonic bands and several other groups. Among these, one can mention eleven folklore groups, with an overall of 500 constituents and an average of 200 yearly performances; eight percussion groups with 255 elements and about 155 performances; three rural ‘tunas’ and twelve choral groups that involve hundreds of Amarante’s inhabitants of all ages. It is estimated that a total of 1200 people are connected to music through amateur activities.
A second component is related to academic music, as Amarante is base for Orquestra do Norte and a whole dynamic on formal and informal education. The municipality has about eight schools that provide musical training each year to roughly 900 students.
Lastly, a component regarding the activity of local amateur bands and the production of music events, contests and festivals in Amarante, a set of initiatives that gather yearly about 70.000 people.
Taking this context into consideration, and supported also on a horizontal model of governance (formed by a Consultive Council of several local and regional organizations), the Amarante Municipality was able to structure a Plan of Action comprising a four year period, thus complying to UNESCO’s requirements for cities candidate to the UCCN.
Amarante’s Plan of Action envisions a more creative city, giving music a key role in its economic, social and cultural development, without discarding articulations and links to other creative, cultural and intellectual spheres within the city itself and with the rest of the county.
Amarante’s application to the UCCN has the stated objective of strengthening a music orientated strategy for the city, while integrating it in a context of intensive international cooperation, not only with other fellow members of the UCCN, but also with cities from Africa and Latin America. All of this with the goal to make Amarante a laboratory for experimentation, cooperation and change, while providing an inclusive, business-oriented, professional and creative ecosystem connected to music.
The Action Plan itself focuses on six main intervention areas.
On a local level, the municipality intends to enhance its musical environment by means of professionalization and motivation of a bussiness-like approach; it aims to use music as a way to empower an active citizenship; and it wills to stimulate a cultural programming that favors creative crossings.
On an international level, the Municipality tries to place itself as an active member of the UCCN, through the construction of a dialogue and cooperation context concerning musical roots; to convey an international character to some of its music festivals; and to establish Amarante as a laboratory for experimentation, debate and sharing of knowledge and good practices, on policies and initiatives that can contribute to make its local ecosystems evermore dynamic, inclusive and entrepreneurial.
”Amarante fortunately has, now with facilities, with a new approach, been able to show the region and the country a great vocation for culture in general, and for music in particular.”
Amarante Youth Center
“I assume that [the candidacy to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network] is majorly important regarding what it can mean, once the candidacy is approved and implemented in the framework that has been established.”
President of the ESTG, Porto Polytechnic
“Amarante has, for exceptional reasons, has a history related to music, and has been growing exponentially in recent years.”
Professor Taí Laranjeira
CCA Executive Director
“I think that a brilliant work is being done here. It’s different, as it is a city in the north region of Portugal, it’s small but not afraid of it, of facing challenges and thinking big; that’s what matters. The objectives must be big, construction is long-term.”
Mimo Festival Director