Ong Keng Sen, Richard Sennett and Assal Habibi, announced as among those to address 4th Edinburgh International Culture Summit

Summit 2018 – Culture: Connecting Peoples and Places runs 22-24 August.

Now in its 4th edition this year the theme of Summit 2018 is Culture: Connecting Peoples and Places. Building on the succinct and successful format of previous editions, Summit 2018 will address three key themes; Culture in a Networked World, Culture and Investment and Culture and Wellbeing. Each theme will be the focus of a plenary session in the Debating Chamber of the Scottish Parliament, supported both by private policy discussions and workshops. The Youth Forum, which was introduced in Summit 2016, has been developed and further integrated into the Summit programme with greater international participation, marking the 2018 Year of Young People in Scotland.

The first speakers have been announced for each of the three strands of the Summit: internationally recognised theatre director Ong Keng Sen on Culture in a Networked World, urban sociologist Richard Sennett on Culture and Investment and Professor of Psychology Dr Assal Habibi on Culture and Wellbeing.

Theme 1: Culture in a Networked World

How can art and culture help us find common ground in a fractured world? As social networks and online platforms reach across the globe, a new universal understanding emerges as we learn what makes us different. The speed and multiplicity of digital communication transforms human relationships. Unheard voices find a platform and location no longer limits community, but this highly networked world makes demands on society in unprecedented ways. While some feel empowered by the changing global landscape, others are left behind. Reaching peace and prosperity in a radically shifting world will depend on an ethos rooted in the principles of internationalism, respect and mutuality. By exploring facets of our complex and plural identities, artists encourage citizens to understand and respect difference. The first speaker to be announced in the Culture in a Networked World strand is Artistic Director of TheatreWorks Ong Keng Sen whose international work focuses on artistic exchange between Eastern and Western cultures.

Theme 2: Culture and Investment

The provision of expensive and elaborate arts centres throughout the world is certainly politically attractive, but what of the art that brings these places to life? How should government policy balance investment in individual artists, creative communities, and buildings? At a time when difficult decisions need to be made about the allocation of modest resources for culture, the Summit will carefully consider the funding challenges facing policy-makers, artistic entrepreneurs and practicing artists alike. If cultural consumption and practice can happen on a street corner or an online video, what are the benefits of investing in artists, buildings, people and places? The first speaker to be announced in the Culture and Investment strand is Professor of Sociology at the LSE and New York University Richard Sennett who founded the independent urban research centre Theatrum Mundi to develop creative approaches to questions in the relationship between the design and cultures of cities.

Theme 3: Culture and Wellbeing

Can culture make a contribution to the health and wellbeing of human society? The sustainable provision of health care is a vital concern for governments around the world. A growing body of neurological and clinical research indicates that participation in cultural activity offers long-lasting benefits for a range of medical conditions. How can the social and economic benefits of arts in health programmes be understood and implemented by policy makers, commercial medical insurers and clinical practitioners? How can the arts improve health outcomes for traditionally marginalised or neglected communities? How can the arts effectively address issues of an ageing society as they relate to chronic illness, social inclusion and the management of healthcare costs? The Summit offers direct examples of the benefits cultural participation has for social and healthcare systems. The first speaker to be announced in the Culture and Wellbeing strand is Assistant Research Professor of Psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute at University of Southern California Dr Assal Habibi, an expert on how biological and environmental factors interact and how childhood learning shapes human development.

Further speakers and programme details will be announced over the coming months.

Summit 2018 gives Ministers and senior policy-makers the opportunity to hear about and share global best-practice in these areas of cultural welfare, economics and globalisation, in order to develop relevant, effective policies, designed to achieve lasting impact. Participation in high-level bilateral and multilateral meetings will enable them to identify areas for future collaboration and delivery in their home countries.