EFA at 2nd Culture Forum with European House for Culture and Access to Culture Platform

16 November 2009

On 27 September 2009 the European House for Culture, an initiative of the European Festivals Association (EFA) with seat at the cultural centre Flagey in Brussels, was officially launched in the company of over 100 guests and in the frame of the European Culture Forum. It was a symbolic moment that was duly noted and mentioned in the opening speech of Commissioner Ján Figel’: “I’m really happy and honoured to start this 2nd European Culture Forum here in Brussels, in the cultural centre Flagey which was recently declared also a House for European Culture”. The European Culture Forum in Brussels brought together 900 participants from all over the world from Portugal to Armenia and Norway to South Africa representing culture civil society, Member States and EU institutions. The 3 civil society Platforms In 2008, the European Commission had launched three Cultural Platforms on: Intercultural Europe; Potential of Creative Industries; and Access to Culture. The later is hosted by the European House for Culture which acts as its secretariat. EFA is on the Board of the Access to Culture Platform and chairs the Audience Participation Working Group. With the adoption of the European Agenda for Culture, a Working Plan 2008-2010 was launched. This included very detailed objectives for the participating Member States and for the EU, one of which was to bring in the know-how of the many actors of the cultural sector improving the dialogue with the civil society. This second European Culture Forum took place half way through the Working Plan span to take stock of the implementation of the European Agenda for Culture, to discuss the progress of the dialogue so far and to agree upon the next steps. The first day was dedicated to the Culture in Motion Conference which presented European cooperation projects in the field of performing arts, visual arts, cultural heritage, and literature/translation and to the very first edition of the EU Prize for Literature. The discussion and debate part of the Forum was structured around the three objectives of the European Agenda for Culture and took place both in plenary and in workshops. It was complemented with a series of flash information sessions to provide a quick overview of recent developments, including the work of the OMC working groups and the civil society Culture Platforms. According to the organiser more than 1000 participants were registered and even if comments were expressed that the Forum sessions themselves did not provide real opportunities for debate and discussion either between the panellists or between panel and audience, the corridors sure provided an excellent space for networking and brainstorming, as is usually the case in this kind of events. A particularly good omen note filled the Forum as the Commission successfully managed to involve representatives from areas other than culture, i.e. DG Development, External Relations and Social Affairs, leaving us hopeful that one of the Access to Culture Platform recommendations – positioning access to culture upstream and transversally in all fields of policymaking – has taken the first steps. It became quite clear that there is a new acceptance by policy makers of the fact that cultural policy is not a concern of the cultural sector alone but that it has to be taken into consideration and finds its strength in cooperation with other policy fields. There is also a serious will of the administrative members of the Directorate General Education and Culture to change the way of communication and to get in contact with the cultural sector. This step towards the culture sector practitioners was not only taken by the setting up of the Platforms but also by the call for input for content in the run-up of the Forum. The Access to Culture Platform was invited to contribute with suggestions on the issues, topics and speakers for the Forum - an invitation which was accepted and to which the European House for Culture, EFA and the Access to Culture Platform intensively contributed. The 3 days ended with the concluding reports on the 3 main issues prepared by Chris Torch, Steve Green and European House for Culture Member Bernard Foccroulle, Director of Aix-en-Provence Festival. The closing speech was an inspirational reminder of Director General Odile Quintin: She stressed what is important now is that when we go back home we go back being active. The European House for Culture will continue to abide by that motto. It is eager to strengthen the bridges built between the Commission, the Parliament and the cultural sector by actively incentivising collaboration in different projects, namely the Access to Culture Platform which will in 2010 see an increase in activity not only of active communication and lobbying but also of collection of best practices and fine tuning of the recommendations devised in 2009. This will be further enhanced by the work of the Working Group Audience Participation where the expertise of EFA members will again prove an insightful added value for the discussions and a constant source of best practices and food for thought on the scope of the benefits of access to culture. Related links and documents: • Full EFA Report on the European Culture ForumOpening speech of Commissioner Ján Figel • Access to Culture Platform: recommendations • Access to Culture Platform on the European Commission websitePlatform for Intercultural Europe • Potential of Creative Industries on the European Commission websiteCulture in Motion ConferenceProgrammeEU Prize for LiteratureEuropean Culture ForumPlenary and WorkshopsFlash information sessionsInfo Session Access to Culture Platform on 29 September at 15h30Info Session European House for Culture on 29 September at 17hEuropean Culture Forum Final ReportsReport by European House for Culture Member Bernard Foccroulle