Executive Summary of British Council Report on EICS 2016

Culture: Building Resilient Communities


The final report from last year’s Edinburgh International Culture Summit was published on 19 July 2017. Culture: Building Resilient Communities explores the vital issues facing today’s policymakers and cultural sector.

The report reflects discussions that took place in the Debating Chamber and Committee Rooms of the Scottish Parliament from 24-26 August 2016. The theme of the Summit was the role of culture in communities and the discussions focussed on three topics - culture and heritage, culture and economics and culture and participation.

Culture and Heritage

Around the world our cultural heritage is at risk. For Daesh and other extremist ideologues the deliberate, systematic destruction of cultural heritage is an avowed objective of war. The threat is very political and very real, and it propels what some may consider sedate, academic activities, such as museum curation, into a new and dangerous frontline, turning work in these fields into a political fight for freedom and identity. At the Summit we learned about the terrible damage caused by the bombardment of Aleppo and the systematic destruction of Palmyra, but also the impact of the illicit trade in antiquities and other threats to what is our shared universal heritage. We heard from communities that are under pressure from tourism, of sites and places that are endangered by their very popularity with international visitors. We mourned the tragedy of Syria and debated the challenges facing Venice and Dubrovnik from the cruise liners sailing the Adriatic. We sympathised but also worked together to explore solutions. We considered how to record and restore shattered ruins and what we might do to encourage tourists to explore places off the well-worn path to relieve the pressure on the most popular sites.

We learned that culture and heritage can be a powerful driver of economic development. Culture-led regeneration is reviving the fortunes of cities around the world from Hobart to Hull, delivering jobs, homes and improved life chances for communities. The report relates the experiences and lessons of transformational developments like the Dundee Waterfront and Cairo’s Al-Azhar Park, demonstrating that the sustainable development of a place both respects and harnesses the historic environment for economic and social benefits. Benefits that local communities – the ultimate custodians of place - can “buy into” to both better understand the intrinsic importance and realise the economic potential of the sites in their care.

 Culture and Economics

The Summit discussed the perennial issue of the F-word: funding, and how cultural institutions can diversify incomes through partnerships and entrepreneurship. The delegates also explored how government policy impacts the sector in numerous ways other than funding, e.g. through licensing laws, taxation, intellectual property rights and visa regulations. Culture needs to be taken seriously - the creative sector is worth billions to national exchequers. Both advanced and developing economies are increasingly turning to film, cultural tourism, music, publishing and video gaming to grow and diversify. The report shares the lessons from the successes of Nollywood and explores the potential of Edinburgh’s festival model to lift local economies.

The consideration of the role of culture in the economy extended to discussion of the place of arts in education systems. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming our homes and workplaces. Digital technologies, increased automation and artificial intelligence are bringing dramatic change to the employment market, not just in manufacturing but across all sectors. Traditional roles in retail and other service sectors are disappearing. The jobs of the future will be in the knowledge and creative sectors. Against this backdrop, education systems need to adapt, to provide young people with the skills and confidence to innovate and challenge. Of course a focus on STEM subjects is important but technological literacy needs to be matched by creativity. There must be a place for critical thinking, scepticism, communication, collaboration, adaptability, “for thinking outside the box”. These are the skills needed by the modern workforce and they are exactly the skills that come through cultural participation, both in schools and the wider community.

Culture and Participation

It is no longer sufficient to just tell the public that the arts are important. People need to experience culture and participate in the discourse, to see how cultural institutions contribute to their communities. They need to develop a sense of entitlement, to feel legitimised and empowered to take part. At the Summit the culture sector was challenged to work to overcome the barriers to participation, to address the belief of some that the arts are “not for the likes of me”. Our cultural institutions have a responsibility to their communities. But it is also an opportunity - to engage new audiences, to build support, to foster new talent and to give people a voice. We need to bring in the young, the old, women, the marginalised, the people on the fringes. We need to look outward, to engage with local communities and embrace innovation and risk-taking.

The Summit delegates learned how participation in programmes like Dance for Parkinson’s and Streetwise Opera are transforming people’s lives. Culture has the power to enable people who feel trapped by their frailties to literally dance through life. The potential for culture to deliver better health and social care outcomes in communities demands to be much understood by service commissioners.

Culture needs to be recognised as part of the infrastructure on which society depends, as important as highways and the electricity supply. Failures in the cultural infrastructure might be less obvious or dramatic than a power outage but the impacts are felt in the long term and the costs of remediation high. We need to better elucidate the many ways, both obvious and more subtle, in which culture contributes to the smooth and orderly functioning of our communities, to personal wellbeing and to social integration and economic progress. Culture is essential to the prosperity and resilience of our communities and needs to be treated as such by policymakers.

The publication of the report is both a time of reflection but also for looking forward to next year’s Summit when the sector and culture ministers will return once again to the Scottish Parliament to come together to share ideas and experiences and debate the complex challenges facing our communities in the 21st century.


Summit 2016 Conclusions & Recommendations

1.         The international community should come together to pressure states into signing and enforcing international conventions on the illicit trade in cultural property.

2.         International partners have a critical role to play in supporting the protection of the historic environment and the intangible heritage of language and cultural practice in fragile states and conflict zones. Further investment and support for programmes like the British Council administered Cultural Protection Fund should be encouraged.

3.         Local communities are best placed to conserve the historic environment, they should be involved in decision making and to see the benefits of conservation themselves – conservation must go hand in hand with economic development.

4.         Much more effort needs to be made to understand fully the role of culture in society. Research is central to this, but so is prioritisation by policymakers. The potential of the arts to contribute to the delivery of better outcomes in health, education and community cohesion needs to be explored and the findings disseminated as broadly as possible. The transformative potential of programmes like Dance for Parkinson’s and Streetwise Opera demands to be better known.

5.         The value of culture needs to be taken seriously. The arts and creativity are going to be critical to personal, community and national success in the ‘4th Industrial Revolution’. Governments should recognise the need for investment and for developing the right strategic approach or face economic decline. 

6.         The culture sector and policymakers should seek to develop a common language and sophisticated cultural evaluation tools to develop a shared understanding of the value of culture. Success will depend on agreeing qualitative and quantitative metrics drawing on a broad range of cultural, artistic, social and economic value criteria. This will require research and analysis to both bring together best practice from around the globe and develop a coherent suite of metrics and methodologies.

7.         The culture sector should develop a better grasp of the links between participation, legitimacy and public support in making the case for public funding and the prioritisation of culture in policymakers’ strategic thinking.

8.         The Edinburgh International Culture Summit offers a unique and essential platform for bringing together the arts sector and policymakers to share best practice and unite in addressing the key socio-economic and cultural challenges facing communities.


Link to the Full Report


About the 2018 Culture Summit

The Edinburgh International Culture Summit brings together Culture Ministers, artists, thinkers and art leaders from around the world to share ideas, expertise and best practice to inspire positive change in cultural policy and investment. Set against the incomparable backdrop of one of the world's greatest cultural events, the Edinburgh Festivals, the Summit is ideally placed to facilitate conversations between practioners and policy-makers.  


  • maybe add all forms of cultural expression... https://t.co/1yGGMw5NU8
    6 weeks 3 days ago
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    8 weeks 5 days ago