THE TRANSFER INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCES ON ‘DIVERSITY' AND ‘DIGITAL CULTURE' IN AMSTERDAM AND BRUSSELS

In September 2016, TRANSFER INTERNATIONAL entered its next phase with the organisation of two intensive and innovative meetings of experts on its central topics of ‘Diversity’ and ‘Digital Culture’.

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The framework for the conference on diversity was the meeting of the Dutch section of the Youth Theatre Association, ASSITEJ, which took place at the De Balie Cultural Centre in central Amsterdam, and in 2016 was dedicated to the topic ‘In Search of New Audiences: The City in all its Diversity’. At the instigation of NRW KULTURsekretariat, and in close collaboration with Dutch Performing Arts (Fonds Podiumskunsten), 46 experts from the three TRANSFER INTERNATIONAL partner regions Belgium, the Netherlands and NRW met on September 2nd to trial a new format for the expert meetings, consisting of presentations and discussions.

Three weeks later, on September 22nd, a second meeting of the same type took place in Brussels on the subject of ‘Digital Culture’. NRW KULTURsekretariat was the organising partner and the host was the Representation of NRW at the European Union. 40 experts were able to share perspectives, experiences and approaches.
In Amsterdam, Dr. Christian Esch, Director of the NRW KULTURsekretariat, opened proceedings with an introduction to TRANSFER INTERNATIONAL.

This was followed by outlines of several approaches to the topic of ‘Diversity’: Henriëtte Post, director of Dutch Performing Arts, Sofie Joye of Kunstenpunt and Susanne Düwel of the NRW Ministry of Culture outlined their regionally-specific projects and funding approaches, as well as highlighting some political-level strategic considerations around diversity.

A discussion then took place on similarities and differences between the various cultural and political contexts. While the challenges proved to be similar, approaches, ideas and initiatives differed signiicantly, as a result in particular of different historical developments in the countries in question.

All the participants expressed a desire to incorporate considerations of ‘Diversity’ in its many facets into the work of their organisations.

The round tables that took place over the two days focused on the challenges posed by these topics to cultural policy and on the practical work of cultural institutions. They asked what conditions were necessary for innovative and forward-looking work.

Attention was also given to ways in which the transnational perspective and funding opportunities of the TRANSFER INTERNATIONAL project could be used most productively.

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The issues of diversity and digital culture have proven to be both pressing and complex. During the discussions and get-togethers, the value of international meetings of this sort quickly became evident.

The response of the experts and institutions involved was overwhelmingly positive. The need for mechanisms for the permanent exchange of knowledge, expertise, ideas, experiences and best practice, as well as for awareness and networking across national borders, was expressed by all parties.

In this sense, the two conferences were important driving forces for the further development of the project and for transnational dialogue on these two topics, key to discussions on the future direction of European policy.