conference evening one

I’ve come to Bavaria to take part in something called a ‘Polylogue’. Like a dialogue but with many voices. It’s about arts and cultural education and/in/for Europe. Sponsored by three international foundations, 90 people from the fields of policy, research and professional practice have been brought together to discuss what arts and cultural education might do to support European sustainable development, understood in its broadest sense.

There’s an understanding that the European project is faltering. Laws and currency are insufficient to bring about a cosmopolitan democracy in which difference is a strength. Arts and cultural education are seen as crucial to the achievement of some kind of European future, what kind is of course up for debate.

conference blog day two 

Today we grappled with difficult questions. But after breakfast of course, not straight away.

Then down to work. We first of all had to consider what kinds of structural arrangements would make for strong arts and cultural education. Did we have any concrete suggestions for ways in which arts and cultural education could be supported? My group first of all had to talk about national curriculums, or lack thereof, and the various ways in which arts and cultural education appeared in a range of European countries. Ben from Amsterdam told us about the autonomy that schools and teachers have to design their own curriculum. Lotte from Sweden told us that there was nothing called cultural education in her country, but there was something called  children’s culture. We found out that the Danish government has just instituted a scheme where young people aged from 15-25 can apply for grants of up to 1500 euros for projects they want to do, rather than participate in programmes someone else has designed for them. All very interesting. In the end I think we agreed that it was pretty hard to think of single or simple structural arrangements to support arts and cultures education, and perhaps the notion of a menu of structures might be more appropriate.
Lunch. A huge amount of salad in the dining area, open to the day’s sun.
The afternoon saw a walk to a mountain hut with coffee and cake, and everyone making a personal commitment to do something to advance arts and cultural education in their country. This was followed by another discussion group, this time about the vexed question of Europe.
 Was there “a” Europe? Did it have a common set of values? What were its current challenges? What might arts and cultural education have to offer? If the arts created empathy did that mean we were to be empathetic with the extreme, anti refugee right wing? If there was a European identity, how come noone felt they had one?  There was little agreement at my table, with the conversation starting with whether we meant the European Union, or Europe more generally. This was followed by lengthy debates about what the arts could do, whether it was instrumental to expect the arts to “do” anything at all, and whether these were world issues rather than simply those of Europe.
Then dinner. Another table groaning with salad and vegetables and finally the evening finished off with posters from participants showing some of the work being done across the continent.
More next!

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