Can ChatGPT help European Capital of Culture candidates?

ChatGPT is all the rage, instilling joy and fear in equal measures. I gave it a try. I asked it to write some advice to a city mayor considering bidding for the European Capital of Culture. In 350 words. Note: bidding, not winning the selection process.

What happened? In seconds, yes seconds, it came up with a plausible letter. And then a few seconds later it came up with another plausible letter. I say “plausible”. If a mayor is asking for advice on whether to enter the competition they normally want some high level, general points: the big picture. Many of the essential boxes were ticked in a general way. It´s not the time to get bogged down in the tactics of preparing a bid let alone gaming the selection panel. There are plenty of consultants out there to do that. My next Chat request will see if it can put them out of business! (joke)

Here is the opening paragraph:

If you’re considering a bid for European Capital of Culture in 2031, congratulations! This is a unique opportunity for your city to showcase its cultural richness and diversity, attract international attention, and boost your local economy. However, winning the title requires careful planning, strong commitment, and effective communication.

Not a bad start. Culture, diversity, local attention and economy tick boxes. And practical matters to the fore. Onwards:

Start early: Preparing a bid for European Capital of Culture takes time, resources, and collaboration with various stakeholders. Ideally, you should start planning at least five years before the application deadline, which is usually in the middle of the previous decade. This will give you enough time to identify your cultural strengths and weaknesses, engage with the local community, and develop a comprehensive bid book.

So far so good. Engage with local community is up there and the “bidbook” makes an appearance. “At least five years” hints at a longer preparation time.

Focus on your unique identity: One of the key criteria for selecting a European Capital of Culture is the city’s cultural and artistic identity. Therefore, it’s important to showcase what makes your city unique and different from others. This could be your historical heritage, contemporary art scene, traditional music, culinary traditions, or any other cultural asset that reflects your city’s identity and diversity.

Goes off on a tangent here. But it is clearly picking up from the countless media articles about an ECOC which, for the most part, regardless of country, fail to understand the central aspect of an ECOC being the future proposed programme rather than the existing offer. A weakness evident: ChatGPT may not be able to prioritise rather than look for the majority sources.

Involve the local community: A successful bid for European Capital of Culture should be rooted in the local community and reflect its aspirations and needs. Therefore, it’s crucial to involve various stakeholders, including artists, cultural institutions, business leaders, civil society organizations, and ordinary citizens, in the bid preparation process. This will ensure that the bid is inclusive, participatory, and relevant to the local context.

Not much wrong with that but misses the international aspect.

Think beyond the year of the title: Winning the European Capital of Culture title is not only about organizing a year-long cultural program but also about leaving a lasting legacy for your city and its citizens. Therefore, it’s important to plan for the post-title period and think about how the cultural infrastructure, networks, and partnerships developed during the bidding and hosting process can benefit the city’s cultural and economic development in the long run.

Legacy, post-title, networks etc again good points, even if it uses the American “program”.

Communicate effectively: A successful bid for European Capital of Culture requires effective communication and promotion both within and outside the city. Therefore, it’s important to develop a strong branding and marketing strategy that highlights your city’s cultural strengths, engages with various audiences, and builds a positive image of your city as a vibrant and creative place to live, work, and visit.

Obvious but well said. Aimed at the post selection period but awareness needed at the start.

And finally a rather bland ending:

In summary, preparing a bid for European Capital of Culture requires a combination of creativity, collaboration, and strategic thinking. By following these pieces of advice and engaging with various stakeholders, you can increase your chances of winning the title and leaving a positive legacy for your city and its citizens. Good luck!

The second attempt was along the same lines but with this improved opener:

Develop a clear and compelling vision: One of the most important elements of a successful ECOC bid is having a strong vision for what you want to achieve. Your vision should reflect the unique cultural identity of your city and demonstrate how it can contribute to the wider European cultural scene. It should be creative, ambitious, and inclusive, highlighting your city’s strengths while also addressing its weaknesses.

At last the “European ” gets a mention. Until that point the advice could apply to any of the increasing number of national capitals of culture. With so many alternatives the European aspect of an ECOC stands out even more as the critical criteria. ChatGPT doesn´t quite understand it but perhaps after a few more attempts will get there.

Summary: Not good enough to send as it is. Covers many of the key points but not quite there. It is a good enough draft for anyone writing that opening letter to the mayor and wondering how to start. It needs a more tweaks. There is no overt reference to tourism which mayors often get hung up on. Some comment on the money side (both costs of the bid/ECOC and the expected return to the city; there are plenty of studies) would be useful as well as more Europeaness. Marks out of 10: 6 or 7.

Will robots take over? Yes in many things, can we stop them, no, should we, no. This blog was written by a human.