On the 18th of November 2013, Jiří Suchánek will become the new director of the Pilsen 2015 public benefit organisation
Jiří Suchánek studied regionalism, public administration and commercial communication at the Faculty of Economics and Public Administration, School of Economics in Prague Afterwards he worked as a financial advisor, commercial agent, project manager and, in the period of 2007 to 2009, he worked as the SOBOfest Festival Director. From 2008 to last December, he acted as the Head of Production and Deputy Manager at the Czech Pavilion of EXPO 2010 in Shanghai. Since January 2011 he has been the Director of the OKD Foundation.
He was selected in a closed selection procedure announced by the Board of Directors of the organisation in July after they had not chosen any of the candidates in the open call procedure. According to the Board of Directors, Jiří Suchánek has the necessary prerequisites to lead the organisation with the principal task of preparing and implementing the Pilsen – European Capital of Culture 2015 project.
The selection committee approached four figures, two of whom passed through to the final round of the selection procedure. The ultimate decision was made on the 15th of October 2013.
“Both candidates were very good. In the end we agreed unanimously on the personality of Jiří Suchánek. He has gained experience for instance while coordinating the activities of the Czech Pavilion during Expo 2010 in Shanghai and in his current position of Director of the OKD Foundation, one of the biggest corporate foundations in the Czech Republic. “I am convinced that Jiří Suchánek has the ability to lead the project and bring the organisation to a successful realisation of the prestigious title Pilsen – European Capital of Culture 2015,” says the Mayor of Pilsen and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Pilsen 2015 company, Martin Baxa.
The current director, Jiří Sulženko, is happy with the choice as well: “I am glad that a man with such rich experience has become the Director. In the OKD Foundation he has been in charge of non-profit projects worth tens of millions of Czech crowns. At the same time, his experience from Expo demonstrates that he can combine a costly project involving selection procedures, open calls and the like, with the artistic component. Such experience is vital for our project,” he says, looking forward to the future collaboration. Sulženko will go back to his position of Programme Director after Suchánek’s ascension.
Interview with the new Director of the European Capital of Culture, Jiří Suchánek
Are you looking forward your new engagement in Pilsen?
“I am really looking forward to Pilsen as such. I turned up briefly at the Lively Streetfestival this summer and enjoyed the atmosphere a lot. I also liked the fact that the audience at the concert of the Israeli band Acollective had no problems communicating with the band in English, plenty of CD’s were bought after the concert and on the whole it was really nice to sit down on the pavement of the Pilsen main square. I am moving over to Pilsen and bringing my family along. We will see for how long but I believe for three years at least.
What was the main reason for you to say yes to the offer to lead the European Capital of Culture project? And what do you see as the crucial challenge?
“I was attracted by the nature of the European Capital of Culture project. In a way, it is similar to what I was doing at Expo in 2010, and my principal motivation was to engage with an interesting culture event of a European dimension. At this moment I see our main task as explaining better what the project means for Pilsen in particular and what it will bring to its citizens. It won’t be an easy journey after all the somersaults of the past, but if I was not convinced that the year 2015 will be an exceptional one for Pilsen, I would never have accepted the offer and would have spend a pleasant (and essentially more peaceful) year 2015 at the EXPO in Milan instead. We have no other option than to prove that the ECoC title is in the right hands!”
Do you see Pilsen as a cultural city or will it have to change by 2015?
“The city has a varied and rich cultural scene already and we are here to help the local artists and citizens get even further. I am looking forward to familiarising myself with the Pilsen scene which I have heard so much praise for. And it is not necessarily about professional institutions or groups – it is my belief that the foundations of the Pilsen 2015 project must rest upon the local community and organisations. I will advocate the maximum involvement of Pilsen-based producers, artists and other collaborators. However, as the newly appointed director I will deal primarily with the operation of the organisation from the point of view of process, I will leave the programme fully and with full confidence up to my colleagues – the specialists.”
What is closest to your heart personally in the programme and what are you looking forward to the most in the year 2015?
“Apart from music, where I feel most at home, I like drama a lot and alternative theatre forms, such as pantomime and contemporary circus.”
What is your relationship to Pilsen itself? Does the fact that you come from Ostrava play a role?
“I certainly don’t feel it is a paradox as some of the Pilsen media described it after my appointment was announced. Quite the opposite, I understand it as a great opportunity for cooperation between these two cities, which is, by the way, one of the recommendations made by the European Commission – to make use of a positive inspiration in the area of industrial heritage reconversion, to learn from each other and to start collaboration on artistic projects. As for myself, I come from a small town, Sobotka, in Český Ráj and came to Ostrava via Prague and Shanghai for a three-year project with the OKD Foundation. Naturally, I came to like the city during that time (a great theatre scene, Colours of Ostrava, industrial heritage, coal mining, the Beskydy mountains, “highlanders”…). I believe I will fall in love with Pilsen just as quickly too. I’ve been a fan of FC Viktoria Plzeň in the Champions League for a long time. J Who wouldn’t like this Czech miracle which came from humble beginnings? And of course, I mustn’t forget my favourite beer, the ’dvanáctka’ (twelve degree) Pilsner which makes Pilsen so well-known and popular everywhere.”