There's no better way to observe the Ruhr region's transformation from industrial centre to cultural hub than at the Ruhrtriennale. Music, theatre, literature and dance have colonised the space where chimneys once smoked and blast furnaces sent red light flickering all around. From the outset, the idea of linking a multi-genre festival with the Ruhr valley's industrial heritage was greeted with enthusiasm by the media, audiences and artists alike.
The Ruhrtriennale has been held annually since 2002 and there is a different artistic director every three years. Its venues are industrial monuments including the blasting hall and power plant at Duisburg-Nord Industrial Landscape Park, the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen and the machine hall at the Zweckel colliery in Gladbeck. These were transformed into amazing arts venues – stages, concert halls and studios – during the Emscher Park International Building Exhibition from 1989 to 1999, once it was certain there was no going back to coal and coke. Productions that seek to create a dialogue with these surroundings are at the heart of the Ruhrtriennale, and the main theatre is the Jahrhunderthalle in Bochum. Artists such as Ariane Mnouchkine, Peter Brook, Bill Viola, Peter Sellars, Ilya Kabakov, Andrea Breth, Christian Boltanski, Johan Simons, Bill Frisell, Patti Smith, Christoph Marthaler, Jan Fabre and Peter Zadek have shaped the Ruhrtriennale – and will continue to ensure that culture not coal is what the Ruhr does best.