Edinburgh International Culture Summit 2012: Culture as an International Dialogue

In 1948 when the UK last hosted the Olympic Games the Edinburgh International Festival was just one year old. Set up in 1947, by partners including the British Council, the Festival presented its 65th Festival in 2012 and in those intervening years established itself as the model of a successful cultural celebration and dialogue, a global brand and a prestigious stage for artists.

Many of the founding principles of the Festival echoed the values of the Olympic Games, the uniting of people and nations in a celebration of achievement, excellence and the best of humanity that the Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1947 famously described, in the context of the aftermath of the second world war, as “providing a platform for the flowering of the human spirit”.

Both the Olympic Games and the Edinburgh International Festival serve to remind all of us of the importance of sharing each other’s cultures in an atmosphere of friendship and peace whether we congregate on Mt Olympus, in London or in Edinburgh. The continuing belief in the power of culture and the arts to transform individual ambition and lives, nations and international dialogue lies at the heart of the Summit and of which the Festival remains one of the world’s most important examples.

After the Closing Ceremony for the 2012 Olympics on Sunday 12 August in London, Culture Ministers were invited to gather in Edinburgh to participate in an International Culture Summit on 13-14 August with the theme of Culture as an International Dialogue.

Scotland and the UK have a global reputation as a place of creativity, innovation and imagination. In the Year of Creative Scotland and the London 2012 Festival, in one of the world’s most famous Festival cities, the Summit celebrated and enhanced that reputation.

It is thought that a Summit of this kind had never taken place before and it presented an unprecedented opportunity to discuss the use and value of culture to encourage dialogue among nations. The Summit, for the first time, brought together Culture Ministers with prominent artists, thinkers and others responsible for formulating and implementing cultural policy to discuss how the arts enrich the lives of people around the world and contribute to the wellbeing of nations.

The themes of the Summit gave focus to:

  • The role of the arts and culture in deepening and broadening our understanding of complex relationships between cultures and nations;
  • Sustaining private and public support for culture;
  • Skills for the future, for the creative industries and the role of technology.