Rural versus urban - it sounds so simple, but is so complex to define. In the last fifty years, many countries went through a process of fusion of smaller villages into larger political units, sometimes grouped around one bigger centre, sometimes with equally-sized localities enlarging scales to improve services.
In many of those countries this has led to significant changes in the populations: young people left their small village to live in the bigger centres; older people never identified with their new, larger community. Instead of being ideal areas where community life flourishes and people like to return to after a day's work in the nearest city, villages in rural areas are losing their vitality.
Often the small, local community house is the only meeting place for the inhabitants. Many of those centres are located far from city centres, with their lively cultural and artistic scenes, and are not included in the overall cultural policy of those larger political entities.
But there is hope. All over Europe we are seeing initiatives from cultural actors and centres to venture out of their central venues and begin participatory work in smaller villages, sometimes with a interest for "community art", sometime with a focus on socio-cultural work and processes. Only a few of those initiatives develop from project work to structural work; from one-shot initiatives to real networking and systematic support.
Mapping all initiatives, debating on best practices and involving universities for the framing of the overall relevance of the work, is the real challenge of our programme "The Role of Culture and Cultural Centres in Rural Areas".
The ENCC will address this project with a series of workshops to discuss the key issues:
- Map and compare the different types of cultural organizations working in rural areas, and their opportunities and challenges;
- Identify conducive and impeding conditions for sustainable cultural policy in rural areas. The aim is to develop recommendations about networking and to elaborate working methods of evaluation systems;
- Examine how European programs and international cooperation projects in the cultural field can help increase audience participation and create cultural co-production with and in rural areas;
- Cross-sectorial attention for issues such as:
- Ways to cope with changing or skewed demographies;
- Ways to increase the capacity of local people to organise themselves and support each other;
- Co-operation with research institutes and universities that address the diversity of cultural policies in Europe, to strengthen the interdisciplinary framework of the project.
The overall aim is to promote creativity and openness to change, and construct sustainable models of cultural networks in rural areas and smaller towns that could be disseminated into other places in Europe and beyond.
Beate Kegler (Emden) - firstname.lastname@example.org
Ilone Asare (Cesis) - email@example.com
Piotr Michalowski (Olesnica) - firstname.lastname@example.org
Kasia Skowron - email@example.com
Ivo Peeters - firstname.lastname@example.org