EFA Secretary General at “Dialogues” of Granada Festival: “Active citizenship needed”

30 June 2010

On 25 June 2010, Kathrin Deventer, Secretary General of the European Festivals Association (EFA), participated in a discussion round entitled “Diálogos”, an initiative of the Festival Internacional de Música y Danza de Granada. The third edition of the 2010 series focused on “Cultural Institutions: vehicles for understanding, cooperation and progress.” Next to Kathrin Deventer, speakers included Jaime Manuel del Arenal Fenochio, Director of the Institute of Mexico in Spain and Cultural Attaché of the Embassy of Mexico in Spain, and Immaculada Tomás Vert, Managing Director of Instituto Valenciano de la Musica. The discussion round was moderated by Enrique Gámez, Director Festival Internacional de Música y Danza de Granada. The role of cultural institutions in transforming societies was addressed from different levels: festivals, cultural networks such as the European Festivals Association at European level or the Mexican cultural institute on a bi-lateral level. All participants agreed that cultural institutions play a key role in terms of enhancing understanding and progress in societies. To take on responsibility as individuals – being artists, practitioners, politicians, press etc. – for shaping societies is a crucial aspect of the work of cultural institutions. In particular in a European framework where “Europe is a maximum diversity in a minimum of living space,” as Milan Kundera once wrote, a high competence in understanding diversity is required from the citizens . The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions gives the legal frame. A common understanding of participation in the European project based on the diversity of cultures, an approach towards realities marked by migration and multicultural pluralism is needed. Arts can be a cross-border tool in this context. As a matter of confirmation, Kathrin Deventer highlighted different values of arts (referring to the speech of Mike van Graan, Arterial Network, in the framework of an international seminar on “Culture and Development” in Girona, 4-5 May 2010): 1. their own right to contribute to personal development; 2. their social value contributing to social cohesion, education etc.; and 3. their economic value generating economic income. “Starting from the acceptance of these values and the individual rights to access the arts – as laid down in many documents, treaties, declarations – a model of citizenship can be developed. Cultural institutions have the task to live, implement and advocate for the implementation of this right leading to the development of citizenship,” stressed Mrs Deventer. Jaime Manuel del Arenal Fenochio underlined that the development of this citizenship model and the definition of human rights is too often approached from a Eurocentric angle. Paternalistic and sometimes nationalistic, or Eurocentric, policies and in particular the external dimension of EU policies need a thorough re-thinking in particular vis-à-vis third countries. The role of cultural institutions in this framework can be to create an understanding of cultures and of values. The aim is to increase intercultural competences in individual citizens on a global level and to bring this to the attention of decision makers in Europe and other parts of the world. To influence the political agenda-setting process – and not just put up with its implementing programmes, funding schemes and rules – is an important task for cultural institutions and in particular networks. Concluding, all participants agreed that arts and artists can play an important role in transforming societies if they are given the right conditions and if politicians recognise their values: increasing access to arts means increasing access to artistic processes, to creation and to participation, to allow artists to dare, to risk, to fail. At the occasion of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion the Granada festival dedicates its 2010 “Diálogos” series to the Year’s objectives and incorporates the aims of EFA flagship project “Open The Door”. In eight editions the 2010 Granada Dialogues explore the role of culture as an instrument of social inclusion and transformation. Speakers include both national and European participants, including artists, politicians, cultural operators, academics and journalists. They focus on topics such as social inclusion, intercultural dialogue, education, social responsibility; each time the role of the arts in the different contexts is explored. The “Dialogue” was live-streamed to more than 200 followers and received broad coverage in the press. It is a veritable demonstration of in-depth reflection on themes and issues at stake in Europe – this year the role of arts and artists as well as cultural organisations in the transformation of societies. The approach is also reflected in the programmation and thinking of the Festival Internacional de Música y Danza de Granada. In particular the involvement of representatives from outside the EU in this framework – artists, operators and others from Mozambique, Cambodia, Mexico, Venezuela etc. – enriches this reflection enormously. (Report by Kathrin Deventer, EFA Secretary General, June 2010)