Košice 2013 – The SPOTs project, Part 1
Interview with project manager Blanka Berkyová
The SPOTs project is one of two key projects of INTERFACE 2013. With this key project Košice won the title of European Capital of Culture 2013. It´s aim is to reconstruct the unused heat exchanger stations, to promote cultural development in large settlements.
The reconstructed stations will serve as Edge Cultural Points (ECP) and support the process of cultural decentralization from the center to the peripheries. They will complete the lack of cultural infrastructure, emphasizing modernization. Final output of the project will be 7 modern multifunctional cultural objects, with impact on cultural development in the city and in the region. An inside peek on the project was given by its manager, Blanka Berkyová.
Blanka Berkyová: The idea to begin a project like this started during the nomination, when the city of Košice was applying for the title European Capital of Culture 2013. The process of mapping had revealed that there are certain heat exchangers in the city which thanks to the advances and changes in heating technology offered free space in the buildings. It also proved to be reasonable to reconstruct these buildings and use them for a different purpose in the future.
Was it tough to bring the project to life?
Blanka Berkyová: I have to admit that the early beginning, before the project developed into a final given form, was really hard. First of all, we had to provide the means and build capacities needed for community development. Everyone thought that the SPOTs project has no results and is just about a reconstruction of some buildings. The project itself was started in the district Košice Západ (West) in 2009. One has to realize that the housing estate we are talking about has approximately 30.000 inhabitants and in the direct neighborhood of the ECP live about 2.000 of them. We had to address these people and start communication. Community workers together with students of social studies did the so-called informational interviews. They visited 1.500 households, interviewed the citizens in person, explained what does it mean that Košice gained the title of European Capital of Culture 2013, how they can get involved in the SPOTs project and that there is going to be a reconstruction of the heat exchanger. We have done some hard field work, where we talked to these people in person, explained the project to them, mention the reconstruction of the heat exchanger station. The key element of the interviews was to find out what kind of activities would citizens prefer to take place in the Edge Cultural Point and whether or not are they willing to participate. This way we have found people who are willing to collaborate and prepare various events for their neighbors nowadays. We are talking about theatre projects, theatre cafes and creative workshops. The basic rule is: reach to the people, attract them, motivate them, spend time together and build a relationship, give them space for their own activities and self-realization. It is a never ending work of a community worker without the SPOTs project would not work.
How did you get involved in the project?
Blanka Berkyová: People in the Košice 2013 team needed to get a “human dimension” in the project, which is how I got in the project. Thanks to a recommendation from Mišo Hudák the team contacted Centre for community development. I worked there as a manager and also as a community worker. At that time was the center focused on Ťahanovce housing estates, where we have implemented various projects on activating youth and other citizens, but we were active also in the local policy making. Therefore I had both theoretical and practical experience in building community and socio-cultural centers, how to create suitable conditions for citizen participation in community building in the housing estates. Already during the candidacy, we have been working with public and other NGOs, so when the evaluation committee came, we were already able to present partial results: that participation in housing estates is possible and that people, who are specifically activated, are able, but moreover interested in the agenda and willing to revitalize the community via the community center. When Košice won the title, Center for community development, where I had previously worked, was the sponsor of the project. We were in charge of its implementation, determining the basic objectives, program structure and building a quality team.
Here you can read the second part: to page