Embed from Getty Images
I have chosen this image to include at the top of the post because it is similar to one used within the talks which I attended today as part of the RSA Festival of Ideas organised by the RSA Fellows Media, Creative Industries, Culture and Heritage Network (p.s. for bloggers and potential bloggers, using Getty images for non commercial purposes to embed on a blog = free and legal, find out more here! I generally like to produce my own images but sometimes something like this work really well). It shows a large cruise ship in port visiting the world heritage city of Venice, and represents a dramatic visualisation of one of the key issues debated at the sessions; the relationship between tourism, heritage and culture and the potential conflicts which can arise.
I thought it would be useful to review my thoughts on the day, and how these might relate to my PhD. For those of you with an interest in all things culture and heritage, I also hope this is of interest to you.
Session 1- The Future of Funding for Festivals in Scotland
This session was chaired by Professor Joe Goldblatt (QMU Edinburgh) and featured talks by Nick Barley from Edinburgh International Book Festival, Leonard Harper Gow and (my PhD Director of Studies/ supervisor) Professor Gayle McPherson.
Nick Barley talked about how the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF) worked, and the different ways in which its funding helped ensure successful operation and continued growth. I was fascinated to learn about the global versions of the EIBF and also that there are a number of free events which are unticketed and ‘turn up and go’. There was a lot of discussion about the importance of the audience and also some barriers to attendance. Perhaps I am a bit of a cheapskate by nature, but even though I am probably technically part of the intended demographic for the Book Festival I have never been because it is in Edinburgh (= train or bus fare, then more for tickets and probably again more for picnic/ lunch or drinks). I have to really, really want to go and see something to pay £10 for a ticket, I often make a wishlist for AyeWrite then whittle it down to 1 or perhaps 2 events as I feel a bit guilty about spending so much cash to go and see a book talk (where I probably buy the book as well, as I wouldn’t be going to a paid event in the first place for an author who I did not already admire!). I am always on the lookout for free events and now that I am a full time student again my student discount card is of course very useful in this respect. The whole economics of festivals and events fascinates me. This is one of the many reasons why I give my time freely to Glasgow Doors Open Day, that most egalitarian of festivals where everything is free and I get to share my passion for my adopted city with other people (and often learn a lot from those who go on my events too!). I was amused and happy to read the recent Heritage Lottery Fund/ BritainThinks report (20 years in 12 places) where Glasgow’s heritage was discussed and there was such a positive reception on HLF funding and 70% of people thought that heritage was part of their identity (source)).
Gayle spoke about ‘festival funding: friend or foe’ using many international examples and debating the relationship between festival events and local identity. The importance of festivals to communities and the ability to leverage events to create social change and active citizenship was highlighted (emphasising ownership and the right of everyone to participate rather than just a certain type of audience). In Scotland festivals can receive funding from a variety of public sources (such as Events Scotland, Creative Scotland, Visit Scotland and Sport Scotland) depending on how they are positioned; some are local but have grown in international reputation whilst others set out to be international in focus as part of mega-events). Gayle discussed how space and place are important in this positioning and how some cities like Singapore have a year round programme of events themed with their identity and promotion, and how in Canada culture is often seen as enhancing the quality of life of an area and city policy taps into this. The possibilities for creating a ‘culture of connectedness’ around events and festivals and their funding and promotion was also explored.
Leonard Harper Gow spoke about the origins of festivals in the Scottish Borders, using ‘horse and harvest’ to summarise the tradition of the common ridings and agricultural shows. The area also has the Borders Book Festival and Borders Walking Festival. I have fond memories of local shows and fayres in the Borders and North Northumberland (and indeed, the heilancoo show in Glasgow which could be said to be an urban version for the Highland Cattle Society, and the famous Glasgow herd doesn’t always win!). Rock buns and craft tents, and even dog racing, I have face painted and exhibited at various ones over the years, and even represented a Council I used to work for by manning the ‘put a pin on the map where you see things you would like to change’ stall). I was interested to hear about the range of events involved in his festival, and the importance of this for young people in the area (and the ticket price discussion came up again).
The panel discussions touched on many topics, from how funding worked (Local Authority support and public funding, product purchases, merchandising, ticket sales, patrons, benefactors, friends, donors, sponsors..), the concept of glocalisation (where local festivals are taken to a global audience), the promotion of festivals and events (though social media and local/ national programme distribution), challenges of broadcasting of festival output (what do you broadcast and why, how might this work across a multi-venue programme with varied audiences as opposed to a single large stage) and the local funding situation in Scotland compared to other areas of the UK and the rest of the world. The audience questions were interesting; also as people introduced themselves they also said where they were from; I didn’t know Edinburgh also has an Irish Festival and a Magic Festival, as well as the obvious big ones in August!
Provocation- fashion and wellbeing
Mal Burkinshaw (from Edinburgh College of Art) gave a provocation on fashion and wellbeing, and explained how his ethical stance towards this had influenced his own career and teaching philosophy. he showed typical fashion magazine style images and told how he used these to challenge students (and us as viewers and consumers) to look at the images which they portrayed, and consider the messages they sent about norms. I was interested to learn that they have a diversity network which helps embed this in the learning (an exhibition is currently on at the Scottish National Portrait gallery showcasing the work).
Session 2- Creativity
Session 2 was my favourite of the day; I found Professor Pier Luigi Sacco’s presentation on ‘socially sustainable models of creativity in culture-led development’ to be highly engaging and full of inspiration (not that the others were not, it’s just sometimes a presentation makes your brain do happy things!). Professor Sacco spoke about the importance of digital tools in everyday life and culture and emphasised the how public participation and active citizenship means trust building; digital storytelling, co-created public art projects and using technology can help create new approaches to participation in culture among communities. The concepts of culture 1.0 – 3.0 intrigued me, I must read more about this.
I enjoyed hearing about Bookkupy Siena, which is a social media storytelling celebration, the website describes it as ‘the first large scale group story-telling experiment ever to be organised in Italy’ (source Siena 2019, candidate European Capital of Culture city website). Islamabad Civic Hackathon was also mentioned, I later had a look at their website and it is a really interesting example of how people can use technology and design to solve problems and challenge issues which affect them. I am aware of local hack days and events; ‘hack’ to me is not a comfortable term as in my cultural upbringing it implies disobedience and bad things like in the War Games film (but I do like the concept of using tech for good! I love Mozilla open source technology and had a whale of a time at Mozfest, as you can see from blog entries on this). Collective co-creation, learning together, having fun with technology, sharing skills and storytelling, joy!
Session 3- Heritage
The introductions to the heritage session were presented by Jane Jackson of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (hands up, one of the many reasons I attended this day was because IHBC helped organise it and I am their newsblog consultant so on this occasion I was Tweeting on their behalf on the day), Professor Mairead Nic Craith of Heriott Watt University and Dr Graeme Purves from the Built Environment Forum Scotland. This embraced such diverse topics as heritage skills and importance of heritage professionals, the poetry of the Forth Bridge and the evolution of town planning, all in only 3 minutes each).
I have to confess I had a little bit of a brief ’academic star struckness’ moment as I had only just recently read one of Francesco Bandarin’s books, and here he was! It was also nice to hear some ‘history of….’ type discussions as it reminded me of old uni lectures and also gave me new information and food for thought. His presentation was ‘Cities as Heritage: results and challenges’. Memories of studying the ‘secteur sauveguarde’ system in my postgrad at Dundee came back to me, and I thought about how I was so keen to see Le Marais when I had the fortune to spend a few days in Paris a couple of years ago (I’ve always had heritage holidays, my head seeks out historic buildings and arty/cultural destinations taking comfort in the luxury of cultural wandering). Within the presentation, the main threats or challenges which historic cities are likely to face were discussed:
- loss of the urban fringe
- infrastructure development
A new way to look at the city in all of its contexts was also discussed as a way to address these issues, suggesting matters which policy makers should look at:
- archaeological layers
- geological and hydrological layers
- morphologies and typologies
- memory and places (the intangible)
- contemporary creativity
It was suggested that the Berlin Neues Museum might be a useful example of contemporary creativity, fusing these points together.
Piet Jaspaert from Europa Nostra looked at ‘mainstreaming culture and heritage’. It was useful to know more about Europa Nostra, I periodically look at their website but it was informative and useful to get an overview of their activity with an engaging presenter discussing their work. I was also intrigued to learn that they are on the lookout for partners; Piet Jaspaert specifically mentioned some key pieces of European Commission documentation which has only recently been adopted (21 May, 22 July and 26 November 2014) and I think this is something I could investigate further, especially with forthcoming ‘Cultural Heritage Counts’ event in June this year (link).
Storify of the day
I created a Storify featuring tweets on the different events of the day. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I find this is often a helpful way to collate information and remember the day.
What I will take away from the day with reference to my PhD study areas:
- That kind of inspiring ‘ideas everywhere’ feeling, where (like certain parts of this blog post) one thought takes me to something else which then grows arms and legs. Inspiration does however sometimes needs a bit of reflection and order prior to public presentation, ahem.
- reflections on the selection of presentation styles used, uses of provocations, and ways to present my ‘speaker biography’ (I have spoken at various events before, but always find it difficult to summarise myself)
- reflections on how I consume culture, from free events to paid
- how culture has many strands and means different things to different people
- a useful selection of case studies illustrating different issues in cultural heritage, some of which I will investigate further in academic literature searches, together with knowledge of more people who work in the areas discussed
- greater knowledge of the multi-modal nature of festival funding, and the fact that there is not a ‘one size fits for all’ model for this (every festival is unique and has a different raison d’être)
- more things to look up regarding European policy
- more good news on the digital storytelling front, and some more Twitter feeds to follow (I love the idea of Bookkupy- follow hashtag #Bookkupy and Siena2019 for info, though I feel it might challenge my somewhat basic Italian skills!)
- confirmation that community = key (as festival attendees, purchaser of products/ consumers of culture, volunteers who embrace their local culture and traditions, knowledge and enthusiasm for an area and activists for social good)- this reminded me of the work of ‘nothing about us without us is for us’ in Govan, Glasgow by Northlight heritage) and all the debates around community engagement and how it works (or not!)