“Magical”, “inspiring” and “memorable” were the most common expressions used by the winners of the European Heritage Awards 2016 to describe the presentation ceremony held on 24 May at the historic Zarzuela Theatre in Madrid, Spain. Around 1,000 people from all over Europe celebrated this year’s most outstanding heritage achievements, welcomed the messages on the power of heritage to revive the European project conveyed by EU Commissioner Tibor Navracsics and Europa Nostra’s President Plácido Domingo, and demonstrated firm support for the proposed European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018. It was an evening of celebration with wonderful surprises.
The 28 winners of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2016, coming from 16 countries participating in the EU’s Creative Europe programme, and the winner of the Europa Nostra Award, from a European country not taking part in that programme, received the awards from the Juries’ Chairpersons of the four categories.
The city of Karlovac received an award for the project “Star in School” “Operating within Karlovac, a city that wants to regenerate its potential, ‘Star in School’ involves an impressive number of students and teachers and helps to promote local identity and civic pride”, the jury said of this project which aims to educate students about their city’s heritage. Karlovac was built as a defence fortress in the shape of a six pointed star and while the city has grown considerably since then, the star shape remains as the historic town centre. Star in School brings students from primary and secondary schools and their teachers to the Star to learn about the historic centre. The project aims to find innovative ways of including cultural heritage in each subject in school, whether it is mathematics, biology, history or Croatian language.
The 7 Grand Prix, selected by independent expert juries and entitled to receive €10,000 each, and the Public Choice Award, chosen in an online poll conducted by Europa Nostra, were alternately presented by Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, and Maestro Plácido Domingo. The rehabilitation of The King’s Little Pathway in Spain was the big winner this year: the expert jury granted it a Grand Prix while the general public selected it as their favourite heritage project in Europe.
In his speech, Commissioner Navracsics affirmed: “All award-winning projects highlight the professionalism and dedication of the people involved in the heritage field throughout Europe. Heritage is not only about monuments or sites, but about people. Our heritage is a living thing, and ultimately a key to our future. This is the message our winners convey. Let me congratulate and thank them and their teams. Their stories show us the way.”
Referring to the recent proposal made by the European Commission to designate 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the Commissioner urged: “I would like to take this opportunity to call on you, the cultural heritage sector, to be a vital part of our efforts to make this Year a success.”
In response, Plácido Domingo stated: “Europa Nostra and so many other organisations have campaigned passionately in favour of this great initiative. I can guarantee that Europa Nostra, all our members and partners, with all our award winners, will give you our full support! We agree that culture and cultural heritage are strong positive forces for change and that the Year should be used as a catalyst for a true European renaissance”.
“At this moment, when so many forces seek to divide Europe and to rebuild barriers in Europe, we have to present our cultural heritage as a strong cohesive force for Europe and its citizens. Though diverse, we are a big family, with a formidable history and an amazing heritage. We should invest much more effort in educating – young and old alike – about the importance of those assets. I very much hope that the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 will become a real firework of positive and creative energy generated by various forms of social participation, both at local and European levels,” advocated the President of Europa Nostra.
Following the welcome remarks by Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, Spanish Minister of Education, Culture and Sport, Araceli Pereda, President of Hispania Nostra, addressed the audience. “I could not imagine a better way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our Spanish association, Hispania Nostra, than to act as hosts to the members of Europa Nostra, our mother ship, and all those Europeans involved in the preservation and promotion of our shared heritage. Let us continue contributing something meaningful to Europe, enhancing our culture, while widening our horizons beyond Europe to other cultures.”
It was a celebratory evening with some wonderfully surprising moments. Álvaro Fernández-Villaverde y Silva, Marqués de Santa Cruz, received a Medal of Honour, the highest distinction conferred by Europa Nostra, from Plácido Domingo, in recognition of the 30 years of his visionary leadership, generous dedication and tireless efforts in promoting Europa Nostra’s mission and raising the profile of the organisation (read related news item). Maestro Domingo was presented with a special cartoon – drawn by the famous French cartoonistPlantu –illustrating his leading role in Europa Nostra and his great commitment to the organisation which is “the voice of cultural heritage in Europe”. During the great closing of the ceremony, Plácido Domingo joined the soprano Auxiliadora Toledano and the tenor Israel Lozano, accompanied by the Choir of the Polytechnic University of Madrid and the Barbieri Chamber Orchestra, and sang an extract of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata to the great delight of the audience.
The entire Awards Ceremony was enhanced by an inspiring musical programme, including extracts from Tosca by Giacomo Puccini, Carmen by George Bizet,Luisa Fernanda by Moreno Torroba, El Barberillo de Lavapiés by Francisco Asenjo Barbieri, La del Soto del Parral by Reveriano Soutullo and Juan Vert, andNabucco by Giuseppe Verdi.