Ruhr. 2010 – Multilevel governance in a polycentric metropolis

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Ruhr.2010 – Multilevel governance in a polycentric metropolis
The Ruhr is a largely urban area in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, consisting of an agglomeration of formerly industrial cities of which Essen and Dortmund are the largest, followed by Duisburg and Bochum. The region has a polycentric urban form and fragmented governance, consisting of 53 municipalities and a population of over 5 million people. The cities have no significant green spaces between them and if seen as a single metropolis it is the EU’s third largest after London and Paris.

Although the bid was explicitly regional in nature, the legal basis for EcoC required a single city to act as the main co-ordinator and leader of the event. By 2004, after a newspaper poll and discussions between members of the Regionalverband Ruhr (Ruhr Regional Association or RVR) it was decided that Essen would be the standard bearer, on behalf of the entire Ruhr region.

This “regional concept” would probably benefit from further clarification, as the Ruhr is not a region in the established geographical sense, either in terms of a sub-national administrative unit with separate cities and rural areas in between, neither is it a single city with a defined catchment area of linked suburbs and villages. However, it can perhaps be said that the Ruhr is (or at least is in the process of becoming) a new type of urban agglomeration, with a decentralised or polycentric urban form and very little undeveloped space between the major cities and towns.

The decision was taken at an early stage to deliver Essen for the Ruhr 2010 through a separate delivery agency, RUHR.2010 GmbH as this model has become an accepted way to manage ECoC in an efficient manner. The organisation’s main task of preparing and implementing ECoC 2010 was translated into two priorities: to be the main point of coordination for all activities under European Capital of Culture; and to further develop municipal and regional structures for culture.

The main shareholders of this organisation are the City of Essen, the Ruhr Regional Association, the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Initiativkreis Ruhr (Ruhr Initiative Circle) - an association of leading companies. These main shareholders are each represented on the Board of Directors, alongside a Board of Trustees composed of high-ranking personalities from the worlds of politics and business, culture, science and sport, providing advice on artistic and international matters. The delivery agency faced a number of issues and challenges, especially in terms of:

• Developing clear and logical decision-making processes, while ensuring the engagement of large

numbers of local and regional stakeholders (and considering the huge levels of local interest);

• Ensuring rigorous financial and legal management, while providing support to project partners in a

flexible and open manner; and

• Developing a programme that would contain the right balance of high-quality or high profile cultural

activities while promoting broad participation of cultural actors and residents.

Though there was some evidence of conflict between the main stakeholders in the early stages of implementation around the approach to artistic direction and the type of programme required, the delivery agency has largely been successful in balancing the requirements for high-profile, international events and the regional development objectives which drove the original application by the city of Essen and the Ruhr Regional Association.

The ECoC also sought to support longer-term processes and goals, in relation to the development of the Ruhr metropolis and a Ruhr identity, as well as supporting social, spatial and administrative integration. While preliminary results from surveys and our consultations suggested that the ECoC is likely to have played a constructive role in this process, these are long term aspirations with many other factors likely to exert an influence, and it is far too soon to make judgements.

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