Political and cultural leaders from across the UK interested in strengthening Ukraine’s international standing and ready to support Ukrainian cultural colleagues and institutions affected by the war came together at this year’s Edinburgh International Culture Summit in a Cultural Leadership Dialogue co-hosted with the Ukrainian Institute. Today, together with the Ukrainian Institute, we are pleased to release a report which shares the testimonies and proactive ideas at the heart of those discussions.
Sponsored by Clare Adamson MSP and supported by the British Council as part of the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture, the Cultural Leadership Dialogue brought together many British and international political and cultural organisations including Creative Scotland, Edinburgh International Festival, Glasgow School of Art, High Commission of Canada, London, Korean Cultural Centre, London, Manchester International Festival, National Endowment for the Arts, USA, National Galleries of Scotland, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, The Victoria & Albert Museum, and The Welsh Government, with the delegation of representatives from the Ukrainian cultural sector.
The Ukrainian representatives suggested that the long-term survival of a free and culturally diverse Ukraine depends greatly on the willingness of the international community to amplify Ukrainian voices, increase visibility and awareness of Ukrainian culture, and to build capacity within Ukraine by forging resilient and proactive partnerships between governments, cultural agencies, and individuals.
Three strands focused respectively on People and ways to sustain and develop individual professional cultural careers disrupted by the invasion; Places and ways of repairing and enhancing Ukraine’s cultural infrastructure; and Partnerships at domestic and international levels. These discussions aimed to find practical and actionable ways to support the Ukrainian cultural sector, raising awareness about Ukrainian culture and ensuring it is at the forefront of international cultural events.
Ideas of how the international community can support Ukrainian culture include:
- Stories and perspectives from Ukraine, and other former Soviet countries should be told, shared, and amplified
- Ukraine seasons of culture could be organised across Europe and financed by host countries to help Ukraine become more understood internationally
- Strategically important countries could host branches of the Ukrainian Institute, enabling matchmaking, exchanges, programming of cultural events and other initiatives.
- It is essential to maintain active connections between Ukrainian artists inside Ukraine and those displaced outside.
- Setting up a fund for commissions of new work would be a powerful catalyst for dynamic and lasting relationships and provide vital nourishment of the arts in Ukraine.
- Cultural collaborations should be encouraged such as the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s links with the Kharkiv Conservatory, which is now moving from an online teaching to a Scottish government funded scheme which will bring 30 students from Kharkiv to study in person in Glasgow.
- Ukrainian cultural professionals, especially in the museums sector, have learned new emergency response skills that have allowed them to protect collections and cultural spaces. Though these approaches have been honed under the most unimaginable of situations, this new expertise should be shared with the international cultural community.
- Partnerships are not just at institutional level. Communities, schools, and individuals from younger generations can create and formalise relationships and collaborations using platforms in the model of the Erasmus programme, or bi-lateral Creative Europe, or existing networks such as European Festivals Association, International Society for Performing Arts, IETM.