INTERVIEWS Andersen makes the difference

For the mayor of Odense, Anker Boye, it is the special spirit of Hans Christian Andersen that forms the foundation for the Hans Christian Andersen 2005 project. Even in the collaboration between private and public funding.

By Mikkel Stjernberg - H.C. Andersen 2005 - 18 January 2003

Anker Boye feels a special pride when he goes to work every morning. Before he walks through the front door of Odense City Hall, he crosses the very square in which a huge torch parade celebrated Hans Christian Andersen, when his hometown paid tribute to him on 6 December 1867.

The thought of the atmosphere of the square at that time softens Anker Boye's heart and makes him dream of doing something similar at the closing ceremony of Hans Christian Andersen 2005, which will take place in Odense.

"We don't have the old city hall anymore, but it would be a beautiful gesture to make to Andersen, the city and history, if we could create the same atmosphere as that time by carrying the torch for Andersen in the citys central square. It would be a beautiful ending to the project that would hopefully leave a strong impression with people of Odenses honored citizen," says Anker Boye.

A great responsibility
He admits that his dream goes hand in hand with the fact that he is sitting in the mayors chair and walks about city hall daily. But if he, in his capacity as mayor of Odense and chairman of the Hans Christian Andersen 2005 Foundation, did not have it, who would?

"There is no doubt that I feel a great responsibility to see to it that a serious celebration of Andersen is mounted. We are talking about an opportunity to put Odense, Funen and Denmark on the international map that will not come again anytime soon. At the same time, Andersen is an invaluable symbol of what Denmark has to give to the world."

Can you say a bit more about that?
The world is becoming smaller and smaller, and every day we see a greater interaction between people in different lands around the world. I would like to see this development continue and become even more comprehensive, so that the earths riches may be distributed in a better way for the benefit of even more people than they are today. This is where Andersen comes into the picture as the citizen of the world he was. It is no accident that cultures as different as Japan and China have embraced Andersen.  What he created touches the whole world, and it would be good for us to have Andersen transformed into an international cultural language that everyone can understand. For then he becomes a means for breaking through some of the barriers between the peoples and cultures of the world, and Andersen is great enough to do just that." 

You believe that what Hans Christian Andersen gave the world can be compared to modern Danish values that would be good for us to profile all over the world?
"Yes, Hans Christian Andersen is bigger than Odense, Funen and Denmark put together, and we have a duty to celebrate him as the citizen of the world he was.  In a national project with international reach that will create a synergy between the writer, Denmark and the rest of the world." 

Local anchoring
What do you think the celebration will mean for Odense?
"Hans Christian Andersen 2005 is a great investment that Funen and Odense would never be able to bear alone. That is why we have sought out national collaborative partners. The hope, of course, is that the investment will return across the board by, among other things, inspiring people abroad to come experience the place where it all started. Therefore, there is also no doubt that a local anchoring of the project in Odense and on Funen is an essential part of it. Certainly, it is a national project with great international reach, but it can only be done, if we constantly remember what the basis for this international exposure is." 

This is the first time that private and public funding have come together on such a huge cultural project. What perspectives do you have on this construction?
"First and foremost, it requires a clear and natural division of the areas of responsibility. The private sector is making an impressive monetary contribution, but we in the public sector have the final responsibility for Andersen and the cultural heritage he represents. Our collaboration with the Bikuben Foundation has exceeded our wildest expectations, and I believe you can create a similar model for other types of projects. Still, I believe that the model is working to such an extent, because it focuses on Hans Christian Andersen. He is a common denominator for us all, we have no doubt, and this provides a completely different springboard for our collaboration. So, even though you can mount a cultural project even bigger than this one in terms of cool, hard cash, you would never have Andersen's spirit hovering in the air with you every single day. It is Andersen himself that makes the difference."

If Hans Christian Andersen were here right now, what do you think he would say?
"I think he would be very pleased to be celebrated in this way and take great satisfaction in having reached so much of the world today. He went through so much in his life, and it is to his credit and honor that this project can be done. Few are granted the opportunity to create something as durable as what Hans Christian Andersen created and I really hope that, with a beautiful closing of Hans Christian Andersen 2005 in Odense, we create a new beginning for how future generations all over the world will relate to Hans Christian Andersen and what he will always stand for."