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Screenshot_01_10_2015_13_48‘Technocratic Europe’ versus ‘Citizen Europe’ is never far from the surface of any EU focused discussion and day one of the European Culture Forum was no exception.  A new strategy to put ‘culture at the heart of the European identity’ – a 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage – and more weight on the artistic value of cultural projects laid out the Parliament’s stall (1). But the debate on culture and society that followed didn’t nail two key issues.  First, why do we struggle to develop strategy that reconciles three aspects of culture – as industry, as social activity, and as…well… culture?  Second, how can we deliver culture’s potential to bring people together when austerity has killed off much of the on the ground capacity needed to support this work?

The next session was a full throated roar for the importance of the cultural and creative industries to the European economy. Europe produces creative talent in abundance. ’A superpower of creativity’ that loses out when it comes to translating this into products and services.  The panel discussed how we connect up investment, research, disciplines and sectors.  There was a call for ‘horizontal funding’ that mirrored Silvia Costa’s call to link Creative Europe, H2020 and COSME to increase the reach and impact of cultural investment.  This plea to break down silos was slightly undone by a failure to grapple with questions raised from the floor about new economic arguments like Basic Income models  or commentators like Paul Mason.  However, I was struck by the ease with which Italy’s Minister for Culture, Dario Franceschini, traversed all of the different drummers for which culture must dance.  The intrinsic and instrumental values of art were different sides of the same coin.

But this was a day to appreciate those working to put culture at the heart of Europe’s various agendas. Linking sectors and disciplines, a strong restatement of the importance of intercultural dialogue in bringing people together in a changing Europe, and capitalising on the 2018 European Year of Culture Heritage opportunity all need hard graft and commitment, not rhetoric, or polemic.

  1. Silvia Costa, Chair of the Culture and Education Committee, European Parliament

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