We look back on Culture for Cities and Regions study visits to Sofia and Antwerp in April.
Sofia: private and public funding for innovation
Our tenth Culture for Cities and Regions study visit took us to Sofia on 19-22 April, where we explored how cities and regions can use a mix of private and public investment to fund cultural projects. Sofia has been enjoying unprecedented growth in its economic infrastructure and has become one of the fastest growing cities in Europe.
The new public-private partnership model, known as the Fund for Innovations in Culture, has been operational since 2014. It aims to provide access to funding for innovative and risky cultural and creative projects. Under this scheme, all private funding raised by a project is doubled by the Sofia municipality. The fund finances grassroots projects that have an impact on local communities, and it allocates grants to help creative entrepreneurs develop their capacity by experimenting, learning and moving forward. Born out of a strong political will and vision, the fund considers artists and cultural entrepreneurs to be forerunners on innovation in business and society alike. The private sector is keen to contribute to the attainment of this vision and to help make Sofia a better place for future generations.
Antwerp: people on the move
On 25-26 April, a Culture for Cities and Regions study visit was held in Antwerp. This focused on the city's social inclusion projects that capitalise on culture, with special attention paid to past and current stories of migration.
The first day was dedicated to migration heritage. The venue was the Red Star Line Museum. Opened in 2013, this museum tells the story of millions of immigrants who left from the port of Antwerp to go to America. The Red Star Line company operated in Antwerp from 1873 to 1934, transporting European in search of a better life in the US. Their stories still resonate today. The participants agreed on the need to capture and share personal stories of migrants, and for municipal officials and employees of cultural organisations to be aware of, and trained to adapt to, a diverse audience and society.
The second day focused on how libraries can contribute to social innovation. In Antwerp, libraries aim to be cultural arenas and knowledge centres. Our delegation spent the day in Bibliotheek Elsschot, which is located in a social housing neighbourhood. Many residents are newcomers or have migrant backgrounds. The activities and workshops organised at the library focus on language learning, the media and social inclusion.
By empowering the residents and working together with local organisations strongly rooted in the communities, Antwerp wishes to strengthen these citizens' feeling of belonging to the city.
The conclusions of the session included the following recommendations:
ask the locals what they want and take their ideas seriously
adapt all related activities to the local context
diversify the use of space and give individuals the chance to have their own little corner
work with local social actors (i.e. youth or social housing organisations)
learn by doing
For more information on the Culture for Cities and Regions initiative, please visit the website: www.cultureforcitiesandregions.eu