European Heritage Hub Showcased at Eurocities Culture Forum

The European Heritage Hub was in the spotlight at the Eurocities Culture Forum, focused on enhancing urban cultural heritage policies

At the Eurocities Culture Forum held on 11-13 October 2023 in Birmingham, culture experts, urban planners and local leaders came together to discuss the ever-growing significance of culture in an urban setting. The main message emerging from the three-day event is that arts and culture aren’t mere embellishments, but rather, part and parcel of urban life and that should be treated as public goods.

Birmingham’s Councillor, Saima Suleman, Cabinet Member for Digital, Culture, Heritage and Tourism, opened the forum by showcasing the city’s dedication to cultural events. Despite financial constraints, Birmingham continues to be ambitious, advancing its artistic aspirations through partnerships and innovative strategies. For example, Suleman highlighted how the British city successfully integrates arts into sectors like health and social care.

In his eye-opening speech, Tom Fleming, Creative Consultancy Director, stressed that while culture is foundational to the identity and vibrancy of a city, it’s often overlooked or undervalued. Fleming urged cities to recognise the transformative power of culture, not just as an afterthought but as a core part of urban development, even more so in the current challenging times. He introduced the concept of civic creativity, a community-led social, economic and environmental change in local areas harnessing the power of the arts and creativity, echoing the mission of the European Heritage Hub.

The Hub’s future outputs—such as its digital platform, policy monitor, and research resources—are in line with this vision, aiming to seamlessly incorporate culture into the growth and development of urban landscapes.

How cities do it

Different municipalities are already working on this. For instance, Glasgow will work on a new culture plan starting in 2024. The idea is to improve the city’s cultural reputation, ensuring everyone can participate. In Lyon, the municipality recently updated a cultural cooperation charter that connects cultural organisations and the local community. Stuttgart has a big project in the works, turning 85 hectares near the central station into a dedicated space for arts and culture. The design of this new hub is conducted in cooperation with local artists to ensure that the project meets their needs.

More examples were presented during the deep-dive working group sessions. Dr Patrycja Rozbicka from Aston University showcased a project mapping out cities’ music places across Europe. The information will help people in the music industry understand the bigger picture. Other speakers shared how their cities fund arts projects, like in Oulu. In Munich, a project combines good design, a commitment to the environment, with efforts to involve everyone in the community.

Birmingham stood out with its initiatives, particularly in integrating arts into public services and health. The city’s commitment to such programmes is a notable example of how culture isn’t just “nice to have” but essential. The ‘More than a moment pledge’ provided further inspiration, symbolising the arts sector’s commitment to equality and representation.

The Eurocities Culture Forum provided the perfect backdrop for presenting the European Heritage Hub. It exemplified the shared belief that culture, heritage, and the arts are fundamental to urban transformation, advocating for an integrated approach to heritage policies that aligns with broader city development goals.

Photo © Eurocities

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