Llíria is currently savouring one of the sweetest stages of its rich multicultural history. The city that we all associate with a “Symphony of Cultures” for its brilliant Iberian, Roman, Arab and medieval past, and wrapped in the best chords of its prestigious bands, was recognized on October 31 by UNESCO as “Creative City of Music”. The capital of Camp de Túria proudly and responsibly assumed thereby the mission of raising the flag of Valencian music in the presence of the most important educational and cultural organization on the planet.
This year, the Edetanian city has earned the affection, respect and admiration of large cities from the five continents, with which it shares an ambitious common project, that is, to promote culture as the best way of local development through education and international cooperation and under the principles of sustainability, solidarity and equality defended by the 2030 Agenda.
The arrival of Llíria to this Network has by no means gone unnoticed, despite being one of the least populated cities among the 247 members. In September, the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, set Llíria as a world example in her opening speech at the III Meeting of Creative Cities held in Beijing.
Azoulay wished to recognize the solidarity effort of the city at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic: “The resilience and solidarity of our network were left for us to see in action in the city of Llíria (Spain), UNESCO Creative City of Music, a fact that invited its professional and amateur musicians to offer a concert from their balconies and served as an example for other cities”.
The UNESCO president meant the international initiative “Windows of Music and Hope”, which was promoted from Llíria to unite the peoples through Beethoven’s music during the worst moments of the health crisis.
Significant international impact
This action was widely reflected at the time on the official UNESCO website and its social networks, reaching visibility of about five million people worldwide. And it has not been the only Edetanian initiative that UNESCO has valued throughout this year.
At the beginning of June, as soon as the health authorities allowed it, Llíria was a pioneer by promoting a multi-artistic streaming show, in collaboration with Bogotá and Leiria, also Creative Cities of Music: “The awakening of the Arts”. This event was organized by the Llíria City Council, with the impulse of Turisme Comunitat Valenciana and the Institut Valencià de Cultura. It took place on June 6 in front of the Esglèsia de la Sang and was a tribute to all the victims and those affected by the first wave of the pandemic after the end of the national mourning decreed in Spain. In the same way, it served to enhance the value of culture in times of crisis, connecting music, film, dance, theatre and design with historical heritage in an innovative show that can still be seen on the municipal YouTube channel.
UNESCO recognized this effort to vindicate local artists from different scenic spheres, and also wanted to join the promotion of the event, giving enormous visibility to Valencian artistic creation and local heritage, represented on the Esglèsia de la Sang, dating back to the 13th century, a National Monument established as one of the cultural symbols of Llíria.
With this type of events, Llíria assumes one of the main mandates entrusted to it as a member of this international network, which identifies creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.
And at the same time, it achieves an extraordinary international positioning, not only because of the global focus of being present in UNESCO’s digital channels, but also because of the participation in joint actions and feedback with cities such as Bogotá, with more than seven millions of inhabitants.
Sustainable Development Network
Llíria is the only Creative City within the Music category that exists in Spain, together with Seville. The rest of the Spanish cities belong to one of the other areas of creativity:
Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Literature, Media Arts, and Gastronomy. Dénia belongs to this last category, with whom Llíria also prepares ambitious cooperation plans to jointly value the culinary and musical excellence of the Valencian Community. The Spanish cities meet a couple of times a year to design common projects. The most imminent is an exchange programme for local artists, which started online a few days ago with the 1st National Artist Forum of Creative Cities.
The advantages offered by belonging to a network connecting the five continents are undeniable, due to the possibilities of synergies, visibility and learning. But it also requires a series of commitments.
The UNESCO Creative Cities Network, created in 2004, aims to promote and enhance the initiatives carried out by member cities so as to make creativity an essential component of urban development, especially through relationships that include the public and private sector and the civil society. It also seeks to strengthen the creation, production, distribution and dissemination of cultural activities, goods, services or to develop centres of creativity and innovation and expand opportunities for creators and professionals in the cultural sector. Among the main objectives, it is the improvement of the access to and the participation in cultural life as well as the enjoyment of cultural goods and services, especially for marginalized or vulnerable groups and individuals. And of course, the complete integration of culture and creativity into local development strategies and plans.
An intense debut despite the coronavirus health crisis
To pursue these objectives, the Edetanian society has strived during a very special year, marked by the COVID-19 crisis. And it has done so through municipal initiatives and with the leadership of its prestigious formations, the Banda Primitiva and the Unió Musical, which have enhanced and adapted its already rich musical agenda to the circumstances. Moreover, they were also involved all the rest of the entities that make up the diverse music scene of the capital of Camp de Túria: the Plectre Orchestra ‘El Micalet’, the Musical Group ‘Vicente Giménez’, the Grup de Danses i Rondalla ‘El Tossal’ and the Banda UDP, a pioneer in Spain as a musical group for retirees and pensioners.
And certainly, the Conservatori Municipal, which, like the Unió and the Primitiva, has had to adapt its teaching work to the new circumstances by using technology. Some of the most supportive initiatives have started from the Conservatori during the lockdown, with videos where the young apprentices, coordinated at home, offered their performances to the rest of the population. The teachers have also participated in different initiatives, such as the musical congratulations to the Chinese people in their New Year or the performance of a video clip through the streets of Llíria, with a song dedicated to the Ciutat de la Música.
Both the conservatory and the different musical formations were protagonists in one of the most successful campaigns of the year: “LLÍRIA CITY OF MUSIC CLASSICS”. During the lockdown period, the entities offered through social networks and the web a selection of their repertoire, including some concerts still unreleased for the general public. Every day for more than a month the citizens of Llíria and around the world have been able to enjoy an extraordinary concert from their homes, completely free of charge and with great quality. In this way, it was also possible to generate a magnificent musical repository with the best “Made in Llíria” performances.
The unbeatable letter of presentation to UNESCO took place with the concert ‘Música per la Pau’, held in a crowded pavilion “Plà de l’Arc” at the beginning of the year. More than 300 young people from different entities joined their talents for a noble cause: peace and social inclusion, one of the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations. It featured the Coral Allegro ONCE from València, the Banda Juvenil Unió Musical de Llíria, the Banda Primitiva Juvenil de Llíria, and the Cor l’Alegria of CEIP Sant Miquel. It was also broadcast live and is available on the municipal YouTube channel.
Fort the video and new technologies have been a key factor in bringing Llíria’s music closer to citizens and projecting it to the entire planet, especially when health restrictions began to be enacted.
In June, the City Council launched an app to make it easier to book tickets for concerts. It was launched with the V DesenJazz Festival, also in collaboration with Bogotá City of Music. Thanks to this simple application available to everyone, more than 5000 people have attended the more than 30 concerts and shows that have taken place since the beginning of summer.
Among these concerts, one of the most relevant was the one that reopened the Roman Baths of Mura on July 24. To the sound of the notes of the Banda Juvenil Unió Musical, the historical heritage of Llíria merged with those who will be its musicians in the future, highlighting a new outdoor stage with twenty centuries of history, which already houses a varied schedule of concerts and shows.
From the Valencia CF to Kansas City
Llíria City of Music has participated in numerous campaigns over the last 365 days. Many of them in association with different cities of the Network, such as “We R Culture”, where different personalities of Edetanian music launched a message in pursuit of the values of culture, which travelled from one part of the planet to the other, together with artistic personalities from other cities. Llíria participated as well in an innovative 12-hour online marathon to celebrate International Music Day, along with 24 other cities from the five continents.
On May 9, on Europe Day, in a joint initiative with Valencia CF to make the population aware of the need to stay in their homes, the Orquestra Simfònica Unió Musical starred in a video with the ‘Anthem of Europe’, using technology to coordinate each musician from their own home.
Musicians from Llíria also participated in the tribute promoted by Kansas City to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of jazz composer Charlie Parker. Jazz and Kansas City of Music were also protagonists in a project promoted by Llíria and Terrassa, City of Film: the audiovisual recording of the song “WorkSong”, as a tribute to workers on the front line in the face of the pandemic. Artists from eight cities on three continents participated in its recording, and it was launched in a coordinated digital way on April 30, that is the International Jazz Day and the eve of International Workers’ Day. Once again, UNESCO congratulated Llíria for co-leading this solidarity initiative.
For solidarity is one of the pillars within the Network of Creative Cities. On those grounds, when Beirut (Creative City of Literature) was rocked by one of the worst explosions since the atomic bomb, Llíria was one of the cities that reacted quickly. During the “LlumFest”, the traditional festival of early music, a message of immediate support was sent. On September 25, the Orquestra Simfònica Primitiva de Llíria participated in a tribute to the Lebanese capital, offered at the headquarters of the Government Delegation in Valencia and bringing on the poet Federico García Lorca as the literary link between both cities.
Within the four-year programme with which Llíria got its candidacy chosen by UNESCO, different commitments were made. Among them was the promotion of the ambitious “ERASMUS + 1” programme, which is being developed by the Conservatori Municipal. This project has already obtained important European financial aid to facilitate the mobility of Llíria students and teachers, in cooperation with other European creative cities. The objective is to enhance the quality and international projection of the Conservatory, offering new opportunities to its students.
Llíria City of Music is also part of an exciting musical exchange project with the city of Kirsehir, under the framework of the European Union that promotes this type of cultural exchange with Turkey.
When the health situation eventually allows it, important international competitions and awards are planned, as well as invitations to prestigious musicians and conductors of the best orchestras in the cities of the Network. From countries as far away as China, South Korea, the United States or Cape Verde, a growing interest in the solid musical tradition that is born on the shores of the Mediterranean is manifesting.
In short, the capital status granted by UNESCO means a new range of possibilities for Valencian musicians and their industry. With the international focus projected on Llíria, an infinite network of connections and high-level opportunities for local development through culture and exchange light up.