Blog | 16 December 2021

Culture Summit year in review and a look ahead to our 2022 events

The year 2021 has been richly productive for the Edinburgh International Culture Summit team. We have seen opportunity in trying circumstances and have embraced this chance to reassess our own practices and create new platforms and programmes. We have greatly enjoyed and appreciated every contact with our contributors and constituency. Our deeply gratitude goes to our partners: the British Council, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government, the UK Government, and our other supporters for their incredible assistance throughout this time, and for allowing us to facilitate not just the summit itself, but also our expanding portfolio.

August 2021 saw the joint launch of our digital platform – Culture Summit Hub – and our Digital Programme, comprising bimonthly discussion panels delivered with our key partners. A virtual event space, networking portal and resource library all-in-one, The Hub offers an open invitation to engage with the Summit and its themes beyond its biennial context.

Since launching, the Hub has proven an invaluable asset, welcoming guests across a spectrum of cultural roles, with international reach including Australia, Japan, Qatar, Lebanon, Mexico and The Netherlands. As this project develops through 2022, we hope that the Culture Summit Hub will become a home for debate and discussion between our users, and as a growing library of speeches, performances, and reportage around culture and our key themes, capturing the challenges and achievements of cultural practitioners working today. Following the entirely online 2020 Summit Special Edition, connecting in digital space has remained not only valuable but necessary in 2021.

To this end, we launched our programme in partnership with the British Council, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Scottish Government, and the UK Government. In August, Edinburgh International Director Fergus Linehan chaired our debut panel on Culture and Sustainability, and was joined by author Nana Oforiatta Ayim, founder and director Omar Rajeh, and musician Karine Polwart to discuss what internationalism means in a time without travel.

In October, theatre director turned eco-dramatist Katie Mitchell, contemporary artist Christine Borland, and the Head of Creative Programmes of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Emma Nicholson discussed how the arts can help engage hearts and minds with the climate emergency in Narratives for Change. This crucial conversation was chaired by Alison Johnson MSP, Presiding Officer of our partner the Scottish Parliament, and was chosen as a topic in both anticipation and support of COP26, the historic climate conference hosted by the city of Glasgow.

We were also proud to participate in the Scottish Parliament’s annual Festival of Politics: a series of digital seminars and lectures from both global and localised perspectives that explore key topics facing the country today: from responses to the climate emergency, the social and economic road to recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic, and also our own event, Why culture is key to good health and well-being, which brought together David Leventhal of Dance for PD, Professor Raymond MacDonald, and Sarah Munro, cultural practitioners who are all discovering positive outcomes by working in support of healthcare.

We then closed the year in continued partnership with the Scottish Government. Angus Robertson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture presented our final panel of the year, asking Tyndall Manchester’s Director Professor Carly McLachlan, Aproxima Art’s director Angus Farquhar, and poet Rumaisa Zubairi, how the cultural sector can move proactively forward Beyond COP26. We will be delighted to share this recording with you in the new year.

We ourselves will move proactively forward into 2022, beginning with a Cultural Leadership Dialogue, Melbourne 2022, presented in partnership with Australia Council for the Arts and the British Council as part of the UK/Australia Season, and hosted by the University of Melbourne.

Ministers from the UK Government, the Scottish Parliament, and the Australia Governments will be attending virtually or in-person as we celebrate the achievements of our respective cultural sectors, while creating new opportunities for collaboration and identifying ways in which the cultural sector can take a leadership role within society, promoting, among other things, climate literacy, creative thinking in both the classroom and in governmental policy, and enriching public discourse by amplifying the voices of those that stand outside of traditional power structures.

This dialogue will function as the first part of a bilateral event. The reciprocal conversation will continue after the Summit in Edinburgh in August 2022, exploring and reinforcing the cultural links between Australia and the UK, and will be attended by leading figures from both cultural sectors demonstrating the importance of bilateral links and exchange.

This bilateral Cultural Leadership Dialogue is the first of its kind organised by the summit team, though we plan to continue the format bringing together specialists and policymakers together for intensive events that will not just allow us to share best practise and interesting ideas but will also serve to strengthen relations and partnerships around the world.

We are also delighted to say that our digital programme will continue into the new year as we work with our other partners The British Council and UK Government to deliver two more bimonthly digital panels as we explore ways in which artists can inspire and enact positive change. Watch for further details soon!

Next August, we plan to deliver the first in-person summit to be held in Edinburgh in four years. We will be gathering representatives the world over to discuss our key themes for the year: Culture and Sustainability, and Culture and Education, accompanied by presentations from our fantastic keynote speakers who will share their experiences and expertise with the summit attendees, as well as live performances from our guest artists. As always, the summit will be set against the incomparable cultural feast that is the Edinburgh August festivals.

We have made the decision to make summit 2022 a hybrid format, planning for both in-person and digital events. This is of course partly a precaution against the pervasive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also an excellent chance to open the conversations and ideas of the summit with an even wider audience than ever before while also enabling us to reduce international travel and minimise our own carbon emissions.

You can check our website or sign up to the Culture Summit Hub for updates around new content, digital events, and opportunities for cultural engagement throughout the year.

We at the Edinburgh International Culture Summit team would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and relaxing festive season and look forward to greeting you all again in the new year!

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