Over the past decade the relationship between cultural partners in European civil society and the European Commission has developed into a Structured Dialogue as part of the developing EU agenda for culture.
As part of the ongoing Structured Dialogue efforts with the European Commission a brainstorming session on social inclusion through horizontal partnering across civil society took place on 17-18 April 2018 at the edge of the Saint-Gilles and Forest quarters of Brussels. In all thirty-six participants representing cultural and social networks, platforms and organisations addressing the arts and social inclusion took part. The results of the discussion will feed into a brainstorming report to be drafted in the following months and made available to the general public through the Open Method of Coordination process of the EU.
The ‘Voices of Culture’ series of meetings were coordinated by the Goethe Institut Brussels and took place at one of the most recent and successful contemporary art regeneration processes to take place in the heart of Europe, namely the WIELS.
I was happy to represent the Maltese cultural organisation Inizjamed.
In response to being asked which recent projects in Europe best demonstrate the effectiveness of culture and heritage activities in fostering social inclusion, in partnership with other sectors, it was noted that, from a Maltese perspective, the occurrence of the European Year of Cultural Heritage at the same time of the European Capital of Culture happening in Malta as well as The Netherlands has allowed for interesting opportunities to address heritage as a living fabric of various sectors of
European society. While more can always be done, and better, there have been instances where European citizens have come across the realities of new Europeans, namely migrants and refugees, seeking new identities in Europe, and challenging Europeans to rethink themselves in relation to people from all over the world, particularly Asia, the Middle East and other areas of the Mediterranean. Inizjamed has participated and observed recent, growing cultural activity that has addressed these dynamics, with an added one: that of trying to bring closer cultural operators, intellectuals, academics and researchers to segments of the European public that may not traditionally be associated, or associate themselves, with the cultural expression of different peoples in Europe today.
Through its action, the possibility of bringing together different people from varying walks of life in the creative and artistic contexts of artist-in-residencies, creative writing workshops, Mediterranean literature festivals, the development and production of poetry on film and music productions that intermingle with the literary experience, has
brought about a catalytic type of change. This approach challenges exercises in mere nostalgia, self-congratulation or aggrandisement that exploits European heritage for surface-level photo ops at a high institutional level. Moreover, the quality of the work engaged in and developed gives the lie to populist and anti-intellectual movements that try to demean the excellence of arts and cultural practitioners with demagogic intentions. The European Year of Cultural Heritage is providing researchers and practitioners with a rich case study on the various facets of what European culture can mean to inter-sectorial outreach and participation on the level of the Union and beyond in light of the EU’s globalisation agenda and work plan for culture.