Our last day in Wildbath Kreuth was only a half a day. Even then, over a third of the ninety participants had to leave early because of a train strike. Many people had tricky bus and taxi trips to try to connect with international flights leaving from cities other than Munich. However, about fifty of us remained till the end.
It’s also been raining and misty for two days and today there was even some snow.
As could be expected from a networking conference in which a lot of planning is done in small groups, the half day consisted mainly of reporting back – reporting back in each of three strands, and then reporting back to the whole group. I’ve mainly been in a strand which has been looking at ways to strengthen arts education in Europe. We’d identified three areas in which some progress might be made: partnerships between the formal and informal cultural education sectors; mobility for artists and young people; and professional learning and development for cultural sector workers and teachers. Ideas such as –
- the formation of a European “Academy” where artists and cultural workers could access further education which might then be credited into higher education courses
- conducting a pan-European literature review of literatures around partnerships, this requires significant translation of reports and papers currently published only in one language
- development of a ‘clearing house’ of arts education research
- building a wiki about interesting practice in arts education
- exploring the potential for using existing EU mobility schemes for arts educators and commissioners.
These and other ideas are going into a report being written by two organisations – bkj a German youth cultural organisation, and CCE, an English based international arts charity – for a big German foundation, Stiftung Mercator. Stiftung Mercator’s mission is to strengthen cultural education, among other things. It is possible therefore that some of the ideas that we generated might actually lead to funded programmes in the future. So it was not just an idle talk-fest.
The question of difference and ‘the local’ has loomed large in this conference. Diversity is seen as a European strength, but also as a barrier to communication. Other differences, particularly related to research and how it is carried out, were also present. These differences were not ignored, but all of the working groups and strands seem to have found ways to acknowledge, articulate and respect them – and then get on with the shared agenda. As someone said at the end of the conference, perhaps this capacity to work with difference is really what Europe is about – a particularly prescient notion as the UK prepares to decide whether it wants to be part of the EU at all.