When I think about creative cities I picture places like London and Paris, where someone’s creativity would have no other choice but to be sparked by everything the city represents –architecture, quirky little shops and traditional cuisine served at hip, exciting restaurants. When I think about creative cities I do not think about my hometown. Luckily, UNESCO isn’t as pretentious as I am. The people behind the creative city initiative had a mission to connect places that have “identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development”. What that basically means? Cities do not necessarily need to be creative in order to get in the list, they just need to be working towards the goal of creativity. In fact, I was surprised to find out that the places I was envisioning – Paris and London weren’t even on the list. Presumably because they do not really have a lot to work towards. On the other hand my hometown – Sofia, was there. At this point I’m thinking that UNESCO has lower standards about what qualifies as a creative city than I do about… pretty much anything. Once again, I try to not be so obnoxious and I open Sofia’s page to find out what made it qualify. The cities on the website are all divided into categories, and the category that Sofia falls under is ‘Film’. And I have to admit, the more I think about it the more sense it is starting to make. The page talks about the Sofia Film Festival – the largest one on the Balkans! It also mentions NATFA – Sofia’s biggest film school. From a close friend of mine I know how difficult it is to get into it, despite the relatively few people who live in Sofia (about 2 million) anybody who wants to get into the theatre and film industry applies there. Not only is it difficult to get into – it’s challenging to get out of. The final piece of work the students have to do at the end of each year is a 36-hour non-stop theatre and film marathon. Naturally, the cultured journalism student that I am (and for moral support for the already mentioned friend) – I attended the marathon. It was one of the most spectacular, wonderfully weird experiences I have ever had.
There was everything from a music cabaret-inspired show to an interactive Shakespeare play where the audience was sitting on the stage.
As already mentioned, everything I saw was the product of the students’ work (and their professors) so I did not have many expectations. I was more than amazed at the talent and the creativity these people had. As well as their contagious energy – after watching a play that finished at 1 a.m. I was buzzing and ready for the next one, however I could not get in the 2 a.m. play, simply because there were too many people and theatre filled in. That was another thing I wasn’t expecting – sure, Sofia has 2 million people and sure, the event was free, but the amount of people there surpassed even my wildest anticipations. So I guess Sofia is creative, or at least it is trying very hard and has a lot of young people working at the goal of making it creative. Such an ambitious even, funded entirely by third parties (the National TV, National radio, a website for theatre lovers, one make-up brand and the National student council) so that it would be free and so that it would attract as many people as possible makes me a bit more optimistic. Maybe there is chance for every city out there to one day be creative!