After Luxembourg and Sibiu (Romania), Liverpool (UK) and Stavanger (Norway) are this year's European capitals of culture.
Stavanger's ambitious "open port" programme offers architecture, literature, music and the visual arts, bringing together artists of all types, both home-grown and from further afield. With the watchwords openness and freedom of expression, Stavanger 2008 intends to cater for all tastes.
Liverpool is organising some 350 events , most of them free - a mix of art, architecture, dance, cinema, cuisine and theatre. Liverpool 2008 hopes to draw a million visitors from sixty countries worldwide.
Both cities are planning colourful launch events for 12 January. Liverpool will kick off with Liverpool - The Musical, featuring former Beatle Ringo Starr and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. The event will double as the official opening of the new Liverpool Arena, located in Merseyside. Stavanger is inviting every local council in the Rogaland region to display its creativity around a number of themes.
The European capital of culture project was launched in 1985 to bring together the peoples of Europe. It is of particular significance in this European year of intercultural dialogue.