Stronger Peripheries is a large-scale cooperation project supported by the EU’s Creative Europe programme, gathering 14 partners, from 10 European countries. It acts within the performing arts sector through the creation of artistic productions, the training of creative and cultural workers, and the proposal of new cultural policies based on the promotion and assessment of participative practices. The project’s latest event, ‘Towards fairer international cultural cooperation: visions from the peripheries’, took place in Barcelona. The seminar was attended by our colleague Fanni Tóth, who tells us how she saw the meeting:
„All animals are equal but some are more equal than others”. Take that Orwell quote, replace animals with countries, and you get the problem that Stronger Peripheries aims to solve, or at least start to solve. Central and peripheral visions raise a lot of questions about how different systems work among these geolocal conditions, and the area of culture is no different. Stronger Peripheries is a project that is part of the Creative Europe Programme, and its main goal is to open space for dialogue about the notions of „south” and „peripheries” for the actors of the cultural and artistic sphere. This January, the city of Barcelona was home to the project’s seminar, titled „Towards fairer international cultural cooperation: visions from the peripheries”.
When I first heard about Stronger Peripheries in the office, the topic immediately made me interested. The first reason – very selfishly – being the project’s connection to a lot of the work and research I am doing at university. The main theme revolves around socio-political questions in the field of culture and arts, which I am writing my thesis on. On a less personal note, I think this project gives a lot of opportunities for people on the peripheries to exchange good practices and try to strengthen eachother in an environment that needs to be fairer.
During the Barcelona Seminar, I had the chance to talk to people who had very similar experiences as I did, but also incredibly different. Everyone encountered drawbacks and problems that arise in our social environment, but these problems differ a lot in each region, in each different situation. Therefore the main thing I took home from these few days – besides the Barcelona sunshine – was the notion that each specific situation needs to be handled with the utmost empathy and attention. And also, the knowledge that these “peripheral” visions cannot be excluded from the big picture because they are just as interesting and colourful as the Western narrative.
The seminar included different session’s about certain geo- and socio-political topics where we could exchange ideas on how to provide fair conditions for artists and cultural actors. I found these especially helpful because I was able to see the cultural sphere through someone else’s lens. On the second day, we visited the Roca Umbert Factory of Arts and had the chance to see an environment that gives space to a lot of auditoriums, practice rooms and residency flats. The institution is located in the beautiful town of Granollers, a 30 minute journey from Barcelona. This wonderful place showed me that creative spaces can (and need to) be communal spaces as well, and Roca Umbert does that really well. With the walls covered in murals, people hanging out at the café and music coming from every room, it is the perfect environment for artistic work. On the long run, I personally think that creating communal spaces like this in so-called peripheral regions would be a good directive to take away from the project, because these can become active and productive bases for local and international cooperations.
Barcelona can be understood as a really special town in terms of geo-political relations. It is located in the Southern region, which is commonly described as “peripheral”. But at the same time, it is a metropolis next to the sea, with millions of people crossing its streets each and everyday. These conditions not only make Barcelona incredibly interesting – not to mention the truly inimitable Catalan culture – but they also make the city very similar to Budapest. A big capital in Central-Europe, a peripheral region, with millions of inhabitants. I think these similarities, alongside the exciting differences are the topics that need to be talked about when our goal is to bring these cultures to the forefront, without self-colonization or losing our individuality.
If you’re interested in the project deeper, take a look at its website