so what’s the plan

August 10th, 2016 | Posted by admin in cultural diplomacy | cultural policy | news - (Comments Off on so what’s the plan)

IMG_2471“We want to foster a Scotland where people are confident to express their creativity, and a nation that is confident in participating on the world stage”.  Scotland’s political manifesto includes a strong statement of intent to drive the formulation of a Scottish cultural strategy, but it also points to a lack of belief.  Confidence in Scotland’s creative culture will develop from a new level of engagement in much the same way as confidence in Scotland’s political culture has been transformed.  This means a plan that is  focused on encouraging rather than framing activity, and anticipating future possibilities rather than current exigencies. I hope the SNP use their manifesto commitment as an opportunity to listen to all of the voices with something to say about arts and culture and to ensure that platforms are provided for young and emerging practitioners to shape the debate.


June 26th, 2016 | Posted by admin in cultural diplomacy | cultural policy | Europe | news - (Comments Off on Eurobeing)

IMG_8332The challenge for those of us that define ourselves as European and feel European is how do we continue to act European.  For those of us in Scotland where we also voted to be European and voted for a Scottish Parliament committed to the EU, there is also the question of how do we support our politicians, institutions and businesses to be European.  In Drew Wylie’s case this challenge particularly applies to the arts, cultural and creative industries, and Scotland, our base, needs a strategy.

This plan should consider the goals and approach to EU investment for culture and creativity in programmes like Creative Europe, H2020 and Erasmus, beginning with six key elements:

  1. supporting transnational collaboration, exchange and partnership
  2. a focus on opportunities for young people
  3. an approach that brings together the creative, the social and the economic
  4. processes, from application assessments to evaluation, that are in themselves transnational and transparent
  5. links to European ‘years of’ (for example 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage) and the European Capital of Culture programme
  6. support for cultural and creative SMEs

The work of our politicians and institutions to secure Scotland’s place in the EU will be immeasurably strengthened by a culture and creativity programme that enables us to act like Europeans.


April 19th, 2016 | Posted by admin in cultural diplomacy | cultural policy | Europe | news - (Comments Off on Flagey1)

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

shifty digits

April 16th, 2014 | Posted by admin in cultural diplomacy | digital | Europe - (Comments Off on shifty digits)

IMG_0770Last week’s Brussels Creative Europe briefing bravely attempted to encompass the ‘digital shift’.  No simple task given the variegated digital Euro-picture.  One person’s streaming, is another’s comms crash.  And we remain in thrall to even the most banal geek-speak.   How can we begin to configure our expectations of digital as European cultural instrument?

The framing is difficult.  The European digital ‘pipework’ means that options differ for cultural producers in, say, Belgium or the Netherlands, with almost 100% superfast broadband coverage, or Italy with less than 15% or Greece with less than 25%.  Sociologists observe that digital communities can be shallow or even counterfeit, not what cultural funding is about.  Our tendency to uncritical technophilia and to name check digital innovation can devalue project assessment.  Dealing with the tension between the creative entrepreneurs desire to monetise Intellectual Property and the public benefit of open innovation and data is also a challenge.  The scientific project may sign over access to digital material in the interests of knowledge exchange, but should we expect cultural producers to do the same?

Understanding of the merits of digital marketing tools is widespread, but experts may be less up to speed in developing areas like theatre in the cloud, or even webcasting as delivered by NT Live or La Monnaie.  After all the streaming of  Le Page’s Ring Cycle was one of the artistic events of recent years for one of our most conservative audiences.

Digitally decorating cultural projects for the delectation of the funder is a temptation, and unpicking the cultural value of the digital component is a new evaluation challenge.  We should interrogate the digital elements of proposals as thoroughly as the analog elements and need the tools to do it.

Ref: Digital Sociology, Critical Perspectives 2013;   Ofcom – The European Broadband Scorecard.   Photo: author’s own, Paolozzi at Edinburgh University Science Campus

The art in camaraderie

April 5th, 2014 | Posted by admin in cultural diplomacy | Europe | news - (Comments Off on The art in camaraderie)

high on a hill sat a... - Version 2It is good to see a cultural diplomacy event without ‘soft power’ in the title and a relief to see a focus on transnational strategy, not just national impact.   Is the EU at last waking up to the importance of culture to its political agenda?

The ’Culture in EU External Relations’  initiative lays out a formidable agenda of principles, methods and recommendations that reflect the paucity of effort to date.  Forged from a year of international inquiry the picture is unsurprisingly a ‘variegated’ one, so gradualism, flexibility and strategy are the order of the day.  Even if the vision is far from incremental: a ’global cultural citizenship’ of rights and responsibilities.

The report is at heart a pitch for resources and instruments.  But it is refreshing to see the spotlight hover on key issues such as: the negative aspects of stringent visa restrictions; the need to engage young people in cultural relations; and the place-shaping potential of international links for both cities and towns.  The idea of working through local NGO’s and public bodies will, no doubt, have a mixed reception, although NGO voices outweigh practitioners at the international level.  The paper also appears to be coy when it comes to the purposes of cultural diplomacy. After all the Creative Europe programme is already in pursuit of the intercultural and transnational co-operation agenda.

A family of pilot projects is proposed.  They are in the right ‘territory’ but may need more thought.  For example, a ‘city-to-city’ cooperation programme excludes the towns and areas now in most need of the benefits of international markets and collaboration.  The EU Film Festival Scheme probably needs to be less prescriptive to allow niche festivals to flourish.

But, this initiative is overdue.  Perhaps culture’s contribution to political stability and trade will now be taken less for granted.  The conference discussion paper can be found here: http://cultureinexternalrelations.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Conference-Discussion-Paper-01042014.pdf