Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

13. Local identity and local development

Human Matrix

Mapping of Cultural resources

Cultural planning



13. Local identity and local development – the importance of Civil Society and its cultural values

13.1 Culture and local development

13.2 Time dimension (past, present and future)

13.3 Events, conferences, festivals

13.4 Reformulate the time rhythm of city life as linked to both the local environment and global economy and political developments


13. Local development and local identity – the importance of civil society and its cultural values

In a globalized world local identity and local development are key factors to consider when wishing to advance in cultural planning. This relates directly to how active are local communities, including its artists and cultural workers, as it is important to ensure that Civil Society and its cultural values are enhanced. Civic and cultural values are not the same and not always do civic values find their replica in modern artistic forms. For instance, when at a public event for Kids’ Guernica exhibiting peace murals the local DJ plays Rap music for entertainment purposes, then the violence in many of those songs is incompatible with the messages these peace murals contain. It is like youth showing up for a session of collaborative work on such peace murals in military outfit. But as jeeps coming close to semi military vehicles enter the daily traffic stream, so images of war and what goes with it finds easily its adaptation and imitation in daily life.

It is not clear what such sporting military like clothes means in reality. Is it fascination, or just a fashion? Has war gained innocence in showing off clothes linked to the military or is the habitus a strangulation of civil life? With news coming daily that another car bomb went off in Baghdad, then this sense of being at war can be simulated.

A refrain in such a song is “let it go, for I cannot deal with all the stress, and it is tragic as to what all people suffer…and all that unnecessary shit, let it go…between life and death…cannot deal with all that stress…let it go…cannot deal…”. It vibrates in the school yards where children are compounded to both a sense of inherent violence and society being represented mostly through an absence of meaningful perspectives.

People give meaning and they derive energy out of lived experiences which strengthen this commitment to the place. Some may call it loyalty, others like Jacek Purchla would say only the local has value in an age of globalization mediated by digital technology. [1]

13.1 Culture and local development

Local development has to be perceived out of a global perspective as it safeguards against the kind of thinking that every local community can continue to exist in isolation from what is happening in the rest of the world. Consequently two key words need to be put into context: local development and globalization. They are currently buzzwords without many knowing what they stand for although used widely not only in policy making circles but equally by the media. Still, the difference is that local development links up with people’s need and desire for concrete outcomes while the visualization of globalization, its impact upon the economy and the environment, has a highly exploitative nature. It requires the global picture to interact at every level even though it is at times very difficult at local level to attain and retain it. As shown by disputes about the factors of global warming and climate change, not only politics and specific interest groups interact. Strategies deployed by business aim to undermine scientific analysis so that the public is confused while institutions are forced to postpone taking necessary measures. Compared to the forces of globalization which interact and exchange information within privileged time, those caught in between the international and local level are engaged and entangled in an all out effort to gain the high moral grounds on how to face the challenges and impact of globalization on the local worlds. Yet they do not mediate as much as they leave the local level without a basis for further articulation of both needs and claims of resources needed for sustainable development.

In that sense Agenda 21 was at global level a first concerted effort to bring local development in line with efforts linking administrative reform with sustainable development. Since then, but especially after the failure of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg 2002, the world has struggled to find a conclusive concept to replace ‘sustainable development’ as key orientation. There are, for instance, efforts by the world bank to link local development in especially rural areas, small islands and vulnerable locations to a concept of development having to do with communication. This approach reflects experiences made in the field when training and communication go together in forming a successful development strategy.

Still, in all of these debates and efforts of implementation, there is one thing missing in all communities and especially in those swamped by all kinds of violence, namely equity brought about by a just development. According to Louis Baeck, economic historian at the University of Leuven, all the various actors from the World Bank to grass-root NGOs “sense the need of a justice-based dialogue in order to achieve more satisfactory results for all.” [1]

When attempting to address the issue of local development out of the perspective of NGOs’ involvement in the due process linking partnership with local authorities to map out successful cultural planning strategies, it becomes apparent that in this age of communication a new approach to information management is needed in order to come to terms with the various issues and approaches undertaken already by both local authorities and NGOs. Still a key term shall be citizens’ participation and in relation to that what funding is currently made available in Europe to facilitate the partnership between territorial and non territorial units. As INTERREG figures greatly in this effort to push forward a certain regional and urban development, experiences made especially by NGOs like POIEIN KAI PRATTEIN in Greece will serve to illustrate some of the general points in need to be taken care of when ‘human resources’ are underused or even abused by a situation marked by lack of finances and commitment.

[1] Louis Baeck (2002),  The Saga of Development and Globalisation, Storia del Pensiero Economico, p. 43 – 44

13.2 Time dimension (past, present and future

As live through times are a prerequisite to understand the experiences made, Jean Paul Sartre formulated this important concept called ‘le vecu’: lived through experiences, as the most authentic base for further going thoughts.

In every city these three time dimensions play a role: past, present and future. The mediation is done by culture. As Spyros Mercouris would define culture, it absorbs the past, shapes the present and anticipates the future.

For younger generations they need to learn from the past done best by entering a dialogue with the elderly people while visiting ancient ruins to learn from them. Children usually have no problems of living in the present provided they are not forced at an early age to perform as if adults, may it be by becoming a children soldier or someone abused in the growing child sex tourism industry. There are still other forms by which children are robbed of their sense for being present in their own terms. Schools and families have not yet found a way to keep children away from violence and bad influences. In the end, decisive are the friends and whom they give their beliefs.

What can be done is to initiate more games, ways of exploring the environment and leaving children to learn above all from nature and by taking care of animals and plants how to protect the environment.

Any cultural period identifies itself first of all with a happy childhood. It serves as sound base for the rest of the life and makes any individual growing up in an urban milieu more resilient to all the negative distractions and set-backs beginning with loss of parents through divorce or death and not ending with disappointments in human relationships, including a love relationship.

Culture has to make up for the loss of time in many cases caused by idle times being lived and time merely consumed by sitting endlessly in front of the television considered by many parents as a suitable form of distraction till the children become addicted while unable to sleep.

13.3 Events, conferences, festivals

When Patras was European Capital of Culture in 2006 a key aim was as stated by manager Chris Roilos to use this one year to prepare Patras for conference tourism. This special category became even more pronounced when Liverpool '08 undertook many efforts to upgrade the city's venues so as to attract in future precisely not just any kind of tourism, but one linked to conferences. A city can claim of the International Medical Association and in particular heart surgeons decide to hold their annual meeting in that specific city. Like rating agencies for state bonds, there exist similar agencies to evaluate available venues (from conference centres to hotels) in terms of provisions for various demands. Meetings can take on a very complex nature as it is a truism not every cultural demand can be met by a city.

Since one criticism of European Capitals of Culture has become that they are single events without ensuring any sustainability, cities have to be careful on how they handle things. There should not be a confusion between hosting an event and staging conferences or even further something like the Edinburgh festival. This is because not every organisational form is suitable for what is meant to be brought across. As they are sharp differences between failures and successes, there are a variety of successes of different scales in need to be examined more closely. Here to identify alteration possibilities means also the city can take a lead in focusing on events happening throughout the year at certain times while conferences can be encouraged by having in place a multiple purpose hall. As to festivals they depend upon building up a reputation over time e.g. the Berlin film festival. For once they become permanent features on everyone's cultural calendar, the task of attaining a critical level is more forthcoming. It becomes then a matter of changing or not venues, directors, modes of handling the sequence e.g. films in competition and those shown at the fringe but still an honor to be shown etc.

Anyone put in charge for one of the three categories knows how complex things can become while a smooth operation presupposes a huge organisation. This is not necessarily the case. More important is the responsiveness and in knowing where are the potential hitches in an otherwise reliable system of multiple forms of agreements. Once a filmmaker is invited and he accepts it is presumed he or she keeps her word. It is amazing how it works. The reliability is itself presumably the biggest stake in organising any event. That becomes as well a certain policy of how invited guests are to be treated. It is presumed their flight and hotel costs are covered while everything is done to make sure they find their way and are taken care. At the same time, their appearance and contribution can be paid or not but always at stake is a certain reputation. To be invited again is to have made sure this reputation is maintained. The same goes for the organisers and the event.

The course they set determines to some extent the time rhythm felt in a city when a special conference or congress takes place. All hotel rooms are booked and there is a hustle and bustle at the airport. It should be clear that a good event does not depend solely on the event itself. A success is guaranteed when many side events contribute and people able to discover still other venues to make personal experiences while attending an overall conference too large for them to follow everything. The secret of success is based on certain ingredients, informal meetings as crucial as a formal keeping with time to absolve all events as a regular sequence. Some writers have projected upon this a futuristic nonsense with everyone just having a number and allowed to speak for 5 minutes as did Stanislav Lem. Yet there are conferences who have quite a different character and shall remain in the memory of those who participated forever. That then can explain a much deeper sense of success, namely when the people are prepared to give a bit more by going outside of themselves to enter a dialogue with the others. Places come alive when hearing the many voices of people interacting. It can be noticed immediately when people find their way both individually and collectively. If the structures of the organisation function to facilitate this free flow of information and interaction, then all the better for it will mean a time rhythm is in tune with what people seek to find out by attending this event, conference or festival.

13.4 Reformulate the time rhythm of city life as linked to both the local environment and global economy and political developments

A clear sign of life being disturbed is when the wake – sleep rhythm is disturbed and the individual but also the society no longer knows when certain expectations can be and shall be fulfilled. The greater the degree of unreliability, the slower are brought about decisions and perspectives for future actions are lost.


[1] Jacek Purchla, (2005),Heritage and Transformation, Krakow: International Cultural Centre

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