Culture

CultPlatform_21. The Danube Culture Platform

#13th Cultural Tourism Intervention:

The Danube is the second longest river in Europe, after the Volga River. It flows westwards through Central and Southeastern Europe and flows into the Black Sea after 2,829 km in the border area of Romania and Ukraine via the Danube Delta. Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade are located on the Danube. Thus, this long river traverses more countries and landscapes than any other river in Europe and, as an important axis of transport and travel, it connects various cultural and economic areas. For this reason, an intervention centred on the Danube’s networks needs to comprehend several cultural areas and different countries. Those involved are Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Luxembourg.

The aim of the CultPlatform21 intervention is to “work against forgetting and to create awareness of cultural diversity and history in the Danube region”. In fact, in the course of history, the Danube area has experienced a chequered past resulting in a culturally and historically rich but fragmented history. The (im)material cultural heritage is the (in)visible testimony to this and, as a non-renewable and irreplaceable resource. It forms people’s collective memory. Accordingly, the project is dedicated to the hidden, forgotten, invisible cultural heritage of the Danube region. The aim was to create a large platform for culture and tourism in the Danube area and initiate the development of some form of cultural tourism in an innovative way in order to involve and connect communities, organizations and tourists within the region. It sees hidden heritage as an interdisciplinary field contributing to the development of new cultural narratives. Eight pilot projects to create spaces of remembrance have been developed and implemented. Three used digital and technological methods, four were more artistic and creative interventions and one applied both tools. Among the main activities we highlight the (a) innovative strategy proposal for cultural routes and the creation of a Policy Learning Platform as a network for stakeholders; (b) the discovery of hidden heritage along the Danube, making the invisible visible through artistic and technological (3D applications) pilot projects; (c) contributing to narrate historic places and events in a contemporary innovative manner. More importantly, the core of the project is the Policy Learning Platform, a cultural policy network of the project partners that well represents the cooperative behaviour between culture and tourism.

The main issue was to discover places of history, find old and new stories to tell and develop artistic and technological pilot projects for descriptive mediation and support existing cultural routes by developing contemporary aspects. The overall intervention had a duration of 2.5 years (from 2017 to 2019). The Federal Chancellery of Austria, the Arts and Culture Division lead the project and the other nineteen partners (from eight countries within the Danube area) developed cooperation on culture and tourism. It was included in the Interreg European Strategy for the Danube Transnational Programme. The ideas that have been generated and tested during the project’s activity showed huge potential in the existing routes along the Danube. It had a positive impact on the local community. The intervention demonstrates that sustainable cultural tourism development requires collaboration and partnership between a variety of stakeholders from both culture and tourism. Working separately leads to missed opportunities and a waste of resources. Through the development of the Policy Learning Platform, CultPlatform21 showed how such a missing framework could be generated. Nevertheless, the project showed the beneficial outcomes of using art-based methods, such as storytelling, for interpreting cultural heritage and connecting it to people.

Ontourage (Flanders, Belgium)

#12 The chosen cultural tourism intervention involved seven heritage venues in the Belgian region of Flanders; each of them was selected due to their important cultural heritage. Some of them have a more tourism-related profile and are well connected to tourism markets (being a castle, fort, towers, etc.) while others do not (e.g. stations). The chosen venues where the events took place are Saint-Rombold’s Tower (Mechelen), Central Station (Antwerp), Fort Napoleon (Ostend), Saint Peters’ Abbey (Ghent), Gaasbeek Castle (Brussels), Liege-Guillemins Station (Liege), ZLDR Luchtfabriek (Zolder). For this reason, such a structural disparity leads the intervention to be achieved through multiple modalities. For example, the stations of Antwerp and Liege-Guillemins, while being impressive architectural buildings, and well-photographed and appreciated, have mainly a public transport function and not tourism-related. On the contrary, Fort Napoleon and Saint-Rombold’s Tower are actively managed by municipal tourist organizations, with a clear link between culture and tourism.

The intervention arose first as a passion project of the three central stakeholders: the Dj Nico Morano, interested in increasing his community/reputation further, the “CityCubes” experiential marketing agency, interested in building a portfolio of innovative marketing initiatives, and the “Arrowminded” project by Jeroen Bryon, a consulting business for heritage locations. They were all interested in expanding their network among cultural heritage venues and establishing a proof-of-concept for attracting younger people to local heritage. Since those three initiators are commercial enterprises, the main objectives were not necessarily linked to the disinterested development of cultural heritage sites. The focus of the cultural programme had a more commercial purpose. Indeed, the overall initiatives, if examined in the long-term, contributed to attracting younger people to the heritage attractions without renouncing a more business-minded strategy. The intervention consists of free Dj-sets played at selected heritage locations for a (randomly) selected group of people. The performances were captured via camera operators and were live-streamed, providing valuable footage for marketing purposes. The core of the intervention was very much aimed at marketing and branding. Accordingly, during the intervention, they provided high-quality live streams and after-movies that were promotionally used to shine a different light on the destination and its heritage.

The initiators agree on considering the initiative a success based on their initial objectives. From a heritage destination standpoint, Ontourage was considered successful for its novel way of connecting cultural heritage with younger generations, attracting the attention of national media. Another success factor was the driving passion of the initiators that, together with their complementary skills and expertise, make the intervention accessible and community-serving. Indeed, larger funding opportunities and a more long-term-oriented vision and strategy could strengthen the potential impacts of the artistic events. In the current case study, private businesses base their own existence on developing connections with people. Therefore, when it comes to connecting people to cultural heritage, it is possible to identify interventions where private businesses pursue their own interests and, intentionally or not, also play a role in getting people closer to a cultural heritage that would otherwise not be accessible or not even considered by specific groups of people. In the case of Ontourage, this happened unintentionally. Each cultural destination with an innovative designed intervention might create new opportunities for the community.

Second sub-regional SmartCulTour Workshop in Krk, Croatia on 20 October

From October 19th 2022 to October 22nd 2022 Krk, Croatia, was the host of the 15th International Conference for Cultural Tourism in Europe, organized by the European Cultural Tourism Network (ECTN) around the topic “Relaunching European Tourism through Cultural Heritage & Digitalisation”. Within the framework of this conference, on Thursday October 20th the SmartCulTour consortium organized its second sub-regional workshop on the tools and methods developed within the Horizon 2020 programme to support stakeholder engagement and community-supported development of cultural tourism initiatives.

Bart Neuts of KU Leuven presented the design process crafting stages and the double-diamond design model, Jessika Weber of Breda University of Applied Sciences gave a presentation on the SmartCulTour Game, Simone Moretti, also of Breda University of Applied Sciences, presented the dynamic House of Quality for supporting decision-making. Finally Blanka Šimundić of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Tourism of the University of Split, presented the process of indicator selection and impact measurement in order to measure and monitor the sustainability of cultural tourism.

was presented live and also streamed online by the organizers and was framed within other sessions organized by colleague Horizon-projects IMPACTOUR and ReInHerit. As such, the SmartCulTour tools and methods could be discussed within wider academic achievements of European research projects and useful synergies were created with other participants. The public included many important professional networks such as the European Travel Commission, Europa Nostra, the European Association of Archaeologists, interpret Europe, Europeana, the Centre for Industrial Heritage, representatives of the European Commission and a number of academics from various institutions.

The Pakruojis Synagogue (Lithuania)

#11 Pakruojis is a small town in the north of Lithuania, mostly known for Pakruojis Manor and the Pakruojis Synagogue, two buildings with strong cultural and artistic importance. Although nowadays there is no Jewish community, in 1710 Jews settled in the town and for a long time they contributed to the economy and social life, becoming part of the village’s heritage. In particular, the Lithuanian Jewish Community owned the synagogue building but they left it abandoned and unsafe. After some years of talks, the building was sold to the municipality with a 99-year lease under only one condition; that it should not be used for business and only for cultural purposes. The acquisition of the property enabled the municipality to invest in the renovation of the building and create a full cultural design inside. The main motivation was to combat antisemitism and preserve Lithuanian Jewish cultural heritage for the next generations, making it more accessible to the public at the same time. After the building restoration, the municipality organized sessions with the local community to include them in the design of the new cultural offer: to combat antisemitism, restore heritage, increase the number of visitors, and address social problems by providing education and cultural opportunities. Several benefits came about. Firstly, although no specific study had been conducted previously, there seemed to be certain economic benefits for local entrepreneurs, such as restaurants and fast food outlets due to the increasing number of visitors. Moreover, thanks to this intervention from the Pakruojis municipality, the history of an extinct community has been recovered with the restoration of the building. The synagogue has become a place for education, aggregation and cultural encounter and now plays a crucial role in the socio-cultural development of the local community. The availability of financial resources granted by the EEA Norway Grant has been fundamental for the final result. In fact, preserving and restoring tangible cultural heritage is not only about renovating a building. It is about interpreting the complex socio-cultural values that a place carries from the past and giving them new functions in contemporary society, possibly balancing its value between the local community good and its potential as a tourism resource.

Le Rockerill cultural venue (Belgium, Charleroi)

#4 Charleroi is a Belgian city with an industrial history shaped by the steel industry and the coal mines. Together with the challenges of a post-industrial transformation, new opportunities also arise. One of them concerns the conversion of industrial heritage and how it can be used to develop a new vision for Charleroi, maintaining its links with the past and enlightening a new future for its citizens. The intervention intended to protect the industrial heritage of Charleroi by repurposing these sites for a different sort of history, focusing on the creative and tourist sectors instead. Furthermore, the project was intended to show the dynamic and creative side of the city and give the visitors a new and unique experience. For this reason, Charleroi turned some of its industrial sites dating back to the 19th century into fascinating artistic stages. In particular, the forges in the former factories of La Providence have been reconverted into “Le Rockerill”, an urban centre dedicated to popular, social, alternative, and underground culture (music, graphic and digital art, theatre, industrial aperitifs, etc.). The initiative was started in 2005 by a collective of artists and friends. Later, it was supported and partially subsided by the regional organization Fédéracion Wallonie-Bruxelles and by the City of Charleroi. It started as an art collective, a small group of art passionates who needed a place to exhibit their art and organize small cultural events. Now, it has become a place for rock, techno, and pop, attracting people from all over Europe. Due to this intervention, an unused and disadvantaged part of Charleroi’s industrial heritage could be revived, supporting the transition of the region towards a new economic model. The economic impact supported most cultural industries and artists’ jobs and incomes. Tourist impact is also significant, as Rockerill attracts visitors from all over Europe. Moreover, the initiative allows for the preservation of industrial heritage that would otherwise disappear. It promotes a socio-cultural revival of a disadvantaged part of Charleroi and contributes to a new and dynamic image of the entire city. The Rockerill creation sets a useful example for several European cities that are going through a post-industrial transformation and want to experiment with new forms of socio-economic development in peripheral areas. The rich industrial heritage of these cities has a huge potential that can be enhanced by combining the historical meaning of this heritage with contemporary forms of artistic expression.

International Festival of Masquerade Games Surova (Bulgaria, Pernik Region)

#3 Pernik, in central-western Bulgaria, is a post-industrial town facing issues of rapid depopulation due to unemployment and lack of opportunities. Despite not being a famous tourist destination, Pernik is well-known for the International Festival of Masquerade Games, the most important event in the region. It takes place every year on the last weekend of January. Nowadays, more than 100 groups from Bulgaria and other countries, with more than 6000 (up to 9000) masked performers take part in the Festival, while national and foreign media actively cover the events. Each edition attracts approximately 250,000-300,000 visitors. It lasts three days and its core attraction consists of the parade of masquerade groups along the roads of the city centre which, ultimately, culminates in the main square where the stage is set up. Today, the Festival can be considered an umbrella intervention, encompassing both cultural tourism interventions and interventions that, instead, mainly target the local community. For instance, during the month of January, museums, art galleries, and cultural community centres usually put on exhibitions related to the Surova tradition. Here, the local community has an essential and active role in the organization of the Festival-related events and takes action voluntarily to support the organization. Local businesses are also involved. Some of them are willing to make financial donations and give their support to strengthen the event and cooperate in its development. In addition, since 2015, the NGO “Local Heritage” has been working in the field of heritage conservation with the aim to support the Festival through communication and dissemination activities. For instance, in 2019, the same association organized workshops to make traditional Survakari masks and created an interactive website to present the masquerade tradition and the Survakari identity. Of course, the overall intervention had a huge impact on the territory. The arrival of approximately 300,000 visitors generates a positive economic impact and, at the same time, enhances socialization among people from different social, professional, and age groups, strengthening social cohesion. In particular, the Festival offers the opportunity to become more acquainted with the cultural specificities of different regions, contributing to intercultural dialogue. There might also be, to some extent, an impact on socio-demographic trends, due to the increasing number of foreigners settling down in the villages around Pernik, attracted by the Festival and the local cultural heritage. Finally, although the Festival has to improve its strategic vision to preserve the sustainability of the entire event, the constant passion, commitment, and resources invested by local administrative entities and cultural institutions have been decisive for the socio-economic benefits generated by the Festival. Their actions have certainly been inspired by the peculiar participatory approach that allows for a continuous flow of inputs from the local community.

City Museum Lier (Belgium, Kempen Region)

#2 Lier is a small town located in a mainly rural region in north-eastern Belgium, in the province of Antwerp. Although it is characterized by a huge potential of historic and cultural heritage, Lier is too small to compete with the cultural centres nearby, or with other tourist players in the region. Moreover, many of the local cultural organizations active in the area have been working just locally, addressing the local community and remaining unknown to tourists from outside. The question raised at the start of this intervention was precisely what role Lier, as a small town, could play culturally. In this regard, the main objective of the intervention was to create a new museum for the town (merging the two that already existed) and, through a bottom-up approach, to select a more authentic characterization of the museum’s cultural offer. In 2015, the board of the (already existing) museums asked the citizens what, in their opinion, was typical of Lier. The survey received more than 1,000 replies. The important findings showed that what most characterized the town were the historic buildings, the atmosphere of the city, and it’s being quiet and green. For this reason, soon after such a great response, an open call selected 30 locals to form the new local community steering committee in order to process and fine-tune all the answers, lead recommendations, and act as museum ambassadors. The impact of the intervention was mostly socio-cultural and the best results concerned the achievement of a greater awareness of the local tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Locals recognized the change that occurred and, consequently, they became more responsible for the museum that they felt as theirs own and for the unique local culture it contained. The entire process has benefitted from the people’s involvement. The participation, engagement, and support of the local community have been crucial for the development of Lier’s tourism.

SmartCulTour celebrates the Sustainable Gastronomy Day with a recipe book

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN General Assembly work to facilitate the observance of Sustainable Gastronomy Day, in collaboration with Member States, UN organizations and other international and regional bodies, as well as civil society, to observe the Day in raising public awareness of its contribution to sustainable development.

The UN General Assembly adopted on 21 December 2016 its resolution A/RES/71/246 and designated 18 June as an international observance, Sustainable Gastronomy Day.

The decision acknowledges gastronomy as a cultural expression related to the natural and cultural diversity of the world. As the COVID-19 pandemic is still unfolding across the globe, sustainable gastronomy – celebrating seasonal ingredients and producers, preserving wildlife as well as our culinary traditions – is today more relevant than ever.

As stated by the UNWTO, gastronomy is about much more than food. It reflects the culture, heritage, traditions and sense of community of different peoples. It is a way of promoting understanding among different cultures, and of bringing people and traditions closer together. Gastronomy tourism is also emerging as an important protector of cultural heritage, and the sector helps create opportunities, including jobs, most notably in rural destinations.

In SmartCulTour we wanted to pay a very special tribute to our local culinary traditions and have put together a booklet including recipes from the 6 Living Labs in the project: Huesca (Spain), Rotterdam (The Netherlands), Scheldeland (Belgium), Split (Croatia), Utsjoki (Finland) and Vicenza (Italy).

Culture: A year into Covid-19

At the outset of the pandemic, UNESCO took decisive steps to combat the impact on the culture sector through strengthening global policy dialogue and promoting the continued access to culture. In April last year, when UNESCO convened 130 ministers of culture in an online meeting to discuss the pandemic’s impact on the sector, it activated and laid down the foundations for an ongoing global policy dialogue with its Member States to carry forward consolidated action in ensuring the sector is supported in crisis response strategies.

Monitoring the impact of the pandemic has been essential to gauge the needs and gaps, and help Member States in shaping appropriate policies. This is also why UNESCO mobilized a broad network of actors within the scope of its work in culture to better understand the situation in order to develop adequate responses. UNESCO launched a wide range of monitoring tools to guide policymakers and practitioners in the various dimensions of cultural policies.

This month special issue of the UNESCO Culture & Public Policy Tracker titled «Culture: A year into Covid-19» was initially published last April as a weekly global policy monitor and later consolidated into a monthly format beginning in September 2020. The past year has seen each of UNESCO’s Culture Conventions and programmes develop unique monitoring mechanisms to track the impact of the pandemic, ranging from monitoring World Heritage site closures, to carrying out surveys amongst Member States, site managers, living heritage bearers, and local authorities, among others.

The monthly Tracker is produced by UNESCO to monitor culture in public policy with regards to the UN Sustainable Development Agenda. It highlights developments within national and regional contexts, as well as emerging debates on culture’s contribution to sustainable development. Drawing on a variety of sources, it provides a broad overview of cultural policy trends worldwide at the national, regional and international level and looks at ways in which countries integrate culture into other policy areas.

You can read the details and download the special issue here: https://en.unesco.org/news/tracker-culture-public-policy-special-issue

Online aanvangsmeeting om het Rotterdamse Living Lab te presenteren

Op 15 april 2021 werd een online bijeenkomst gehouden om het Living Lab van Rotterdam te presenteren aan verschillende stakeholders uit de regio. Het Living Lab Rotterdam is een van de zes living labs die deelneemt aam het Europese project SmartCulTour, dat door de Europese Commissie wordt gefinancierd in het kader van het H2020-programma. Het doel van de living labs is het aanmoedigen van netwerken tussen belanghebbenden uit het toeristische werkveld om zo tot goede praktijken en innovatieve oplossingen voor duurzaam cultureel toerisme te komen, die tegelijkertijd ook kunnen worden uitgewisseld met andere Europese regio’s.

In samenwerking met citymarketingorganisatie Rotterdam Partners werden voor de ‘inception meeting’ personen uitgenodigd die in hun dagelijkse werk of leven te maken hebben met toerisme, evenementen en leisure maar ook bijvoorbeeld met stedelijke planning. Zo waren onder andere Theater Zuidplein, Rotterdam Festivals, Gemeente Rotterdam en IFFR aanwezig bij de online sessie. Met totaal 15 participanten ging de online meeting van start met een leuke opwarm oefening: ‘’Laat aan de hand van je Microsoft Teams achtergrond zien wat jij onder Rotterdams cultureel toerisme verstaat.’’ Dit leverde een divers palet aan kleurrijke achtergronden op en zorgde daarnaast ook voor een mooi openingsgesprek waar de verschillende participanten van elkaar hoorden wat Rotterdams cultureel toerisme voor hen inhoudt.

Vervolgens gaven Ko Koens en Bert Smit van Breda University of Applied Sciences een uitleg over SmartCultour en de nut en noodzaak van living labs. Ko Koens: ‘’ Om een living lab te laten slagen is het noodzakelijks om de juiste deelnemers aan tafel te hebben die kennis hebben van kansen, mogelijkheden en problemen in wijken en daarnaast kennis hebben van toerisme, cultuur, stadsontwikkeling en infrastructuur. We kunnen niet wachten om de komende tijd met jullie op een interactieve en leuke manier aan de slag te gaan.’’

Om de daad bij het woord te voegen was het volgende onderdeel van de meeting het maken van een moodboard in de app ‘mural’. De deelnemers van de meeting werden uitgedaagd om een collage te maken met foto’s die voor hen Rotterdams cultureel toerisme vertegenwoordigden. Er ontstonden interessante borden, die even later met elkaar werden vergeleken en besproken. Zo merkten de deelnemers op dat op de foto’s die eerder waren geselecteerd door de labmanagers en projectleiders onder andere de maritieme cultuur, die juist zo belangrijk is voor Rotterdam ontbrak. Daarnaast kwamen de deelnemers tot de conclusie dat de 174 nationaliteiten die Rotterdam rijk is juist ook het cultureel toeristische beeld van Rotterdam bepalen.

Tot slot werden interessante interventies op het gebied van cultureel toerisme uit andere steden gedeeld. Zie bijvoorbeeld onderstaand afbeelding die genomen is in Den Bosch tijdens het Jeroen Bosch jaar in 2016. De deelnemers komen begin juni weer bij elkaar in een ontwerpsessie. De focus ligt dan ook op hoe toeristische visie en strategie werkelijkheid worden in een bepaalde wijk of misschien juist wel hoe de werkelijkheid van de wijk en de stad zou moeten leiden tot een zich continu ontwikkelende toerisme strategie.

Photo Jherominus Bosch year 2016. Credits: Brabants Dagblad