Softly Does It

June 27th, 2013 | Posted by admin in cultural diplomacy | Europe - (Comments Off on Softly Does It)

What does cultural diplomacy look like in a small nation with a big identity?  This was the question of the day at the Danish Cultural Institute as the RSA contemplated a future Scottish Centre for Cultural Relations.  The British Council’s recent reflections on soft power can, after all,  seem irrelevant in a country with the population of a medium sized city and modest presence on the European stage.

But cultural diplomacy does matter.  We heard about how a change of tone in Portugal was supporting links with Brazil and Angola, where a shared language is providing competitive edge.  But the Portuguese ‘trade boat’ contribution to the  Venice Biannale mirrors our own failure to understand that UK cultural influence arises from the quality of our artists and the success of a mixed cultural economy.   Independent or not, Scotland should work harder at being an international and internationally connected culture.

Image: Thorbjorn Lausten at Edinburgh’s Lux Europae festival, celebrating hosting the 1992 European Summit

Permits for the possible

March 3rd, 2013 | Posted by admin in creative industries | cultural diplomacy | cultural policy | Europe - (Comments Off on Permits for the possible)

Bismarck’s homily about politics being the art of the possible popped up in a presentation last week at roughly the same time that John Kerry praised Germany’s ‘exemplary leadership’ in Europe.  Contrast this with the general despair at  the lack of political leadership amongst European colleagues.

To be sure we had Jimmy Deenihan, Ireland’s Minister for things cultural making a commitment to the Creative Europe programme at a Bozars event to mark the Irish presidency of the EU.  But the feeling was more of a European Union that has been rendered more impotent to articulate the possible and to do something about it.

The optimism around integrated cultural and creative industries investment stimulating jobs and opportunities risks being overtaken by a ‘less of the same’ fatalism.  More than ever we need to show how both the creative economy and cultural co-operation can set the pace for economic recovery and political harmony.

Image: Orla Barry’s ‘Mountain’ at Bozars

less global – more international

May 9th, 2012 | Posted by admin in cultural diplomacy | cultural policy | Europe | news - (Comments Off on less global – more international)

Are creativity and internationalism interdependent?  Does culture wither on the vine, thistle or Egyptian lotus without intercultural refreshment, and can positive links between nations be sustained without socio-cultural empathy and appreciation?

We have national, we have global and we have trading blocks.  Well that’s how it seems to look to the Government officials at the recent ‘Back to the Future’ event at Coin Street, discussing civil society engagement in the EU Structural Funds.  Here we had a stark contrast between the Scottish and Welsh approach of using European investment to empower communities to the English ‘money out, money in’ command and control approach.

The mediation of international relations by national governments also surfaced as an issue at the Creative Scotland International Think Tank in Edinburgh.  Almost all participants (mostly from Scotland and Nordic countries) were signed up to the importance of intercultural dialogue.  Yet Scottish culture is often simply folded into negative UK responses to European cultural investment.   Bongiwe Ruth Mautla (skyping from South Africa) talked of the importance of the artist in expressing the relationship of people to the land.  Views that resonate across rural Scotland.

Dialogue across national boundaries is a tangible cultural activity.  Let’s hope that Creative Scotland manage to keep up the momentum towards a more outward looking and international culture that, in time, will energise both creative output and cultural economy.

Duncan Higgins talked about his work on Solovki Island
Duncan Higgins presented some of his work created at Solovki (Solovetsky Islands) in Northern Russia at the Creative Scotland International Think Tank in Edinburgh

Hands Across the Water

March 31st, 2012 | Posted by admin in cultural diplomacy | Europe - (Comments Off on Hands Across the Water)

Is there a new spirit of internationalism about?  The last fortnight seems to have been full of overseas intent, much of it across the North Sea.  First there was the film festival planning day that spoke to a Northern European trans-national film culture.  Aspirations for cultural collaboration with film-makers in ports that were once the trading life blood of Scotland and the North of England.  Next came the Shetlands workshops, the Nordic feel of the place, and the creative opportunities looking East.

This week the Nordic Horizons event at the Scottish Parliament with Icelandic economist Professor Thorvaldur Gylfason described how the Icelandic post crash ‘pots and pans’ revolution migrated into a proposed ‘people’s constitution’, stimulating great debate over a Scottish constitution and citizen involvement.  It was a great advertisement for trans-national co-operation and intercultural dialogue.

It seems as if there is a new internationalising interest in the creative and cultural industries sector in both Scotland and some of the English regions.  Some of this may be just a case of eying up funding opportunities in the face of a domestic investment drought, but there are those that see wider benefits from looking across the water.

The recent consultation on the new Creative Europe proposals attracted commentary on future trans-national working.  The upcoming IFACCA and  Council of Europe Compendium authors’ meetings in Helsinki is another avenue, and the focus on cultural participation in the latter should offer many opportunities for dialogue that advances both policy and practice.


Help win increased investment for creatives

March 8th, 2012 | Posted by admin in cultural diplomacy | cultural policy | Europe - (Comments Off on Help win increased investment for creatives)

Help convince the UK to support additional culture and creative industries investment.

It’s time to add your voice for the need for investment in the cultural and creative industries sector in Europe.  Many of us have spent years helping to accumulate the evidence base for the value of culture and creativity, but to little effect as so many in the higher echelons of political, public and business life seem allergic to this kind of strategic investment for the future.  But here we have our colleagues in the European Union successfully plugging away at a major uplift that could, if it successfully negotiates the final hurdles, make a significant impact on employment opportunity for the young, sectoral growth and European competitiveness.   Budgetary growth of 37% to a €1.8bn. seven year programme from 2014 is just the kind of intervention that is needed.  Furthermore the bringing together of the Culture and MEDIA programmes will offer new opportunities for cross sectoral development and a co-ordinated response to the digital opportunity.  A new guarantee fund (€210m.) to be delivered by the European Investment Fund aims to lock in the banks to investment opportunity and to be SME friendly.

The UK could be a real barrier to this initiative and was one of only six countries to oppose the previous bid to raise the budget in this area. It is important that the UK sector makes its voice heard so that Government understands what there is to gain from backing this proposal.  The deadline for consultative responses is fast approaching (16th March).  The following link takes you to the site that explains how to respond and provides more information.