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Bid Book

After nine months of discussions, meetings and back aching nights, our pre-selection round Bid Book for European Capital of Culture 2026 is finally done!
You can download and read it in english here (pdf, 7.1 mb)
You can download and read it in slovak here (pdf, 3.2 mb)

The Bid Book is a comprehensive document that describes the concept of our candidacy, our proposed artistic program, the cultural strategy of Nitra for 2021-2031 (so-called NK31), the European dimension, the audience development strategy, participation of the general and professional public in the project, or plans of the City and the Region in terms of the development of cultural and tourist infrastructure.

More than 100 people from Nitra and the Nitra Region have worked on the Bid Book from March to December 2020: the Nitra 2026 project team, employees of the Nitra Municipal Office, independent cultural actors, representatives of important cultural institutions, university representatives, activists, creatives and many others. What connects these people is a vision of a more lively, active and cultural Nitra. Huge thanks to all of them!

If you don’t have the time, you can find our concept, themes and a selection of our proposed programme and project activities below. 

Nitra 2026: Breaking Point in short

1. Concept – Breaking Point
2. Programme lines – 3 BREAKS
3. A selection of the proposed programme and project activities

1. Concept – Breaking Point

The concept of our programme is Breaking Point. When talking about Nitra, we realised that not only is it at a breaking point, it can also be best described as one – both in time and space.

Geographically, Nitra lies between lowlands and highlands, between fertile fields and impenetrable nature. Historically, as the first Slovak city that is an important part of the country’s identity. Ethnically, between the south where the Hungarian ethnic minority strives and the north where it is absent. Socially, between progressive and prosperous west and traditionalist and resilient east.

The times we live in are also a breaking point. The ongoing pandemic makes us question the ideas of social interdependence and culture’s ability to connect us as human beings. The climate crisis urges us to reevaluate our relationship to the environment we are a part of. The post-factual era calls for cultivated dialogue as a way of searching clarity and equality; the brain-drain and migrant influx for broadening the concept of our identity.

We believe Nitra can be the space where solutions are attempted. But how exactly? By Nitra being the Breaking Point where culture and art are used as ways to underpin a process of change, a space where habits, mechanisms and relationships are confronted, examined, thought-through and put back together better and healthier. Not for good, but always, continuously and systematically. We are aware of how difficult and painful a quest this may be. But as they say: In order to make an omelette you have to break a few eggs.

That’s why our programme concept is divided into three main BREAKS as our programme lines:

2. Programme lines – 3 BREAKS

Break the Cycle – Identity

Do I belong to my family, community, city, region, country or to Europe? Identity is arguably the biggest of European society’s themes, that due to rapid societal changes undergoes constant reevaluation. Nitra is often called the mother of Slovak cities. The centre of the country’s identity, based around the traditions of the Great Moravian Empire, princes and knights, kings and bishops. Of the mission of the brothers Cyril and Methodius. Each year we tirelessly commemorate these unquestionable idols of centuries ago the same way… only to make them seem tired of themselves even. Yes, we have been revolving in the cycle of the past for far too long. And in the process, we forget to celebrate those whose existence can actually make a difference.

And sure, the old history is a part of us, but we feel a dire need to break this cycle through addressing our successes and traumas of the recent past and through constant reflection of the present. The projects of this BREAK are about a genuine and sober look within our past heritage and present state that will hopefully result in surefooted stepping ahead to a less backwards-looking and more inclusive future of shaping a European identity.

Did you know that… on the break of the 19th and 20th century, Nitra was an important Jewish metropolis? In 1900, the Jewish inhabitants made up 28% of the city’s population.

 

Break the Silence – Dialogue

The unprecedented situation of isolation we currently face highlights the biggest problem Nitra has – atomisation of our society. Residents, migrants, cultural actors and others, each locked up in their own echo chambers listening to like-minded voices or screaming in complete isolation. We believe that Nitra could find an answer –  by breaking the echo chambers we live in, through openness to ourselves and to everyone we share common space with. After all, our most revered art form is theatre. And that means dialogue. The projects of this BREAK propose a way out of these issues in a way of multi-faceted dialogue that can connect the different layers of our society to come up with healthy and systematic solutions to present and upcoming issues.

Did you know that… Nitrančans and the inhabitants of Nitra Region are a true theatre folk? The yearly theatre attendance in the region reaches a fantastic 180 000 viewers.

Break the Ground – Sustainability

Sustainability is one of the most widely used terms in recent years. For us Nitrančans, however, it is nothing new. We have always been caring farmers and growers with a strong relationship to the land and nature around us. In recent decades, however, this bond has weakened. Can we revive it and use its principles not only in relation to nature but also in cultivating human potential? Break the Ground is a line that perceives environmental sustainability, creative participation and the development of human potential as one closely related topic.

Did you know that… Nitra is the greenest Slovak city? Yep, that’s right – there is 140m2 of urban green space per inhabitant.

3. A selection of the proposed programme and project activities

Break the Cycle

Nitra: Lost. Possible. Future.

An ambitious interdisciplinary project standing on the verge of reality, fiction and prediction. Its main aim is to look at the fluidity of Nitra’s identity in time and to start an interactive discussion about who we were, could have been and are possibly going to be. The project tells the story of various “versions” of Nitra in three chapters: Nitra: Lost. reveals the layers of our lost cultural heritage: the ethnically and religiously diverse neighbourhoods, cosy cafés and shops in the city, unique folk dances or distinctive meals. Nitra: Possible. offers an unusual chance to take a break and think “What if?” What if Nitra was never bombed in World War II? What if Slovakia never became a socialist state? What if the visionary architectural designs of the 80s were actually built? A selection of artists from different fields will be invited in 2025 for workshops with local historians to envisage Nitra that could have been – if some of its past played out slightly differently. While Lost. and Possible. invites historians to collaborate, Future. asks scientists – futurologists, ecologists or sociologists – for help. Together they will imagine various scenarios of our future: realistic, utopian, dystopian or maybe even the one most unimaginable – where there’s no Nitra at all.

What Would the Brothers Say?

The St. Cyril and Methodius. The Apostles of Slavs. The Patrons of Europe. The two brothers whose impact culturally connects several European nations. Their mission was to enlighten the minds, to help the isolated, to cross differences. Revered and loved, their presence is embedded in Nitra’s identity. But are their ideas? When celebrating them, we mostly do so from a distance, making them untouchable. What Would the Brothers Say? is a means of looking past their halos and breaking the gap between them then and us now. Historians and performance artists will join forces to create a series of on-the-spot performance experiences that will put the Brothers in the Nitra of today, letting them react to their immortal status but mostly to contemporary issues with a perspective of more than a millennium.

Museum of Parallel Culture 

From the 1950s to 1980s, the cultural cosmos of the Eastern Bloc was split into two worlds. One happening in broad daylight, sanctioned by the officials; the other, living in the shadows in garages, pubs, black markets or through secret letter clubs. Nitra’s newly established virtual Museum of Parallel Culture will present this fascinating but almost forgotten era of cultural rebels and mavericks. From X-ray vinyl bootlegging, amateur dubbing culture of Western blockbusters and electrical engineers building satellites from garbage can tops to get prohibited Austrian TV signal to samizdat books – the Museum’s peculiar online exhibition will showcase a fascinating part of our history and the resilience of culture. The Museum will present its contents through an online gallery, its own podcast, blogs, documentary series, interactive games, online talks, and an open-online library for local citizens who were a part of this phenomenon.

Break the Silence

Divadelná Nitra ’35

More than a progressive exhibition of contemporary performing art that presents new artistic tendencies and crosses genre borders. In 2026, the biggest theatre festival in Slovakia and one of the biggest in Central Europe will celebrate its 35 years in big style. Breaking out of its traditional proportions and boundaries in length, size and boldness.

The main festival programme in September 2026 will present 20 – 25 productions that deal with personal and social distance in 5 sections: Slovak Showcase, European Contemporary, Suomalainen Teatteri (Finnish showcase), (Me)identity – (EU)identity (open call projects), and A Touch From Afar (atypical virtual space projects). Additionally, it will provide: activities as artistic interventions in public space, AGORA that develops public conversation with different communities, MORE THAN BEAUTY, a series of events devoted to the arts ability of dealing with mental health issues. The festival will also hold speed meeting sessions and networking events for theatre professionals and amateurs alike in pursuit of searching for borderless theatrical connections.

But that’s not all. For the first time ever, a special format Divadelná Nitra_Polycentricity will spread the festival atmosphere throughout the Nitra Region – in the form of weekend festivals during the year. Prepare for Divadelné Nové Zámky, Divadelné Topoľčany or Divadelná Šaľa!

Protesta Festival & Conference

We see protesting and the ability to speak freely without being threatened as one of the most important signs of free society. Protesta Festival celebrates this right with a unique event aimed at presenting the idea of protesting and speaking up around the world. From French Revolution to current protests in Belarus, the festival will present the history of protesting through visual art exhibition, series of concerts, a theatre-like protest flash mob; a special VR installation in the city centre will transport its visitors to famous historical rallies and protests and a participatory exhibition for locals to share their memories on Czecho-Slovak Velvet Revolution or recent protests of 2018. The festival will conclude with a two-day conference where journalists, media experts, protest organisers and philosophers from around Europe will look at the problems and dangers that modern democracy and its most important institutions such as free journalism and the right to speak up face in today’s post-factual era.

The View from The Cheap Seats

The best seat is your balcony, the best stage is the yard in front of your home. A set of events that experiment with live art forms combining the flexibility of an independent culture with the need to bring art to people outside the traditional cultural points. No serious theme, only some new circus, buskers, stand-up comedians and fun that breaks the routine. Housing estates in the suburbs, nursing homes for our elders or hospital complexes changing into temporary sites to prove that culture can work anywhere.

 

Break the Ground

Gardens of Nitra

This project simply makes too much sense. As a society culturally connected to the soil but facing atomisation, isolation and consumerism, in need for more functional public space, yet blessed with perfect natural conditions, we aim to build 4 state-of-the-art community gardens as local neighbourhood centres scattered throughout Nitra.

In 2022 we will develop a cohesive plan along with local community garden pioneers CUKETA and the Faculty of Horticulture and Landscape Engineering from the Slovak University of Agriculture which will include online questionnaires, door to door campaigns and participatory meetings and discussions in different neighbourhoods interested in having their own garden. In 2023, the faculty will put community garden projects with their specific localities in the curriculum, creating a co-creation platform for students, teachers and garden-hungry residents. In 2024 and 2025 the project will be implemented, in 2026 already flourishing.

The gardens will not only enliven our neighbourhoods visually but will mostly serve as organic community hubs offering an inclusive space that stimulates social interaction. Primary activities will be planned with experts from the Slovak University of Agriculture and the teams of CUKETA and Hidepark, and will include eco-education, workshops (plant care, cooking classes, preservation workshops, up-cycling workshops, creative workshops). All gardens will be equipped with basic event inventory (stage, audio and light equipment, projector, etc.) for its co-owners to host their own cultural programme with the help of Nitra 2026 Team. Swaps, upcycling workshops, barbecues, screenings, concerts, markets could form just a part of the programmes that local people can develop.

Take Over The Institution!

One of the most traditional cultural institutions of Nitra, the imposing Andrej Bagar Theatre, will be seized for one week by Erasmus+ students and students from local art faculties and conservatories. Taking local managers, artists and technicians out of their comfort zone. Working together with the professional team the students will take over the operation of the theatre, presenting their work during the European Theatre Night. They will have their hands free, so we will not provide more information on the description. But you can count on it to be an original and unexpected evening – with who knows what consequences.

 

Fields of Multiculture

Break the monocultures, bring on the multicultures! The aim of Fields of Multiculture is to point out the dangers and disadvantages of agricultural monocultures through the prism of visual art. Resident artists from all over Europe in cooperation with scientists from Slovak Agricultural University will transform several hectare sized and rather dull fields into visually interesting and colorful works of large scale land art. These will serve as striking invitations to the city for those coming to Nitra 2026 by highway. And will make just driving by much harder. Fields of Multiculture is a unique co-creation project bringing together artists, agricultural researchers and local farmers.

You can find our complete proposed artistic programme and projects in our Bid Book Nitra 2026 – Breaking Point on pp. 20-28.

You can download and read it in english here (pdf, 7.1 mb)
You can download and read it in slovak here (pdf, 3.2 mb)