A Cultural Strategy for Plovdiv
The project for developing a cultural strategy of the city of Plovdiv arouse out of the debate on cultural decentralization, which took place in the framework of the "Policies for Culture" Programme of the European Cultural Foundation and ECUMEST Association in Bistritza, January 2001.
The theoretical concepts presented at the workshop, the exchanged experiences and the overall discussions on the issue, revealed the existing restrictions for the cultural decentralization processes on the local level.
Reality denies the fact, traditionally taken for granted, that Plovdiv is a significant cultural centre in Bulgaria. The city lags in the rear of Sofia, Varna and Burgas in many respects. All that requires to face the problems of cultural development of Plovdiv and to shape up instruments and methods for revitalizing the leading role of the city in the cultural field on the basis of tradition and existing potential.
The project for developing a city cultural strategy was initiated and implemented in two phases as a result of the united efforts and close partnership of state, municipal, private and non-governmental organisations (a unique fact) in the period September - December 2001. The participants in the cultural processes have been identified and invited to associate with the initiative to create a cultural strategy of the city. For the first time for many years in November 2001 over 70 culture professionals gathered around the table to discuss the painful issues of the city development. Different opinions have been raised, as well as some justified doubts have been expressed on whether and how the creation of a strategy could be financially secured. The financial situation in the country and particularly in the Plovdiv Municipality lead the debate mainly towards discussing existing and feasible alternative funding sources. Unsurprisingly, much attention was paid to the consumers of cultural products and services: taking into consideration their needs and requirements, weighing up the planned activities according to the market needs. The lack of deep understanding of the consumers' needs resulted in a concrete suggestion - to commission a general marketing survey on all cultural institutions and activities in the city. At the same time, the SWOT analysis of each cultural organisation appeared to be a key instrument for identifying and formulating priorities of the Plovdiv cultural policy development. An elected committee comprised of 9 members (representatives of municipal and non-governmental organisations) have worked out the strategy content. The work of the Committee has been facilitated by the constant feedback, which came out of the managers of above 20 cultural organisations. More than 10 meetings of the most active project participants took place in less than 3 months. The municipal authorities assumed the responsibility to undertake the necessary measures to implement the cultural strategy.
The Cultural strategy of the city of Plovdiv is envisaged for a period of 3-4 years. It remains an open and dynamic programme, which can undergo changes under the supervision of the Committee.
This project was the first step - made through identifying and recognizing the main issues of the city cultural development:
- The status quo concentrates cultural activities in the centre, thus peripheral areas remain isolated. The need of territorial decentralization of culture in the city itself is obvious.
- The lack of co-ordination and partnership among cultural organisations leads to fragmentation of initiatives and puts the issues of effective communication and the significance of cultural initiatives as key items in the agenda.
- The problem of the "culture-media" relationship has been clearly distinguished. The concept to create a specific mechanism for interaction between cultural institutions and media on the local level is acquiring more importance and is looking for its most appropriate model for realisation.

Vesela Ilieva
Project Coordinator