ON THE BLOG: Reflections on 2018 from the Culture team

Creative Europe Desk UK's Culture team offer some of their reflections on 2018. Where have they been? Has anything stood out? What has inspired them about Creative Europe and European collaboration?

Kate Deans, Creative Europe Desk UK - Scotland

2018 has been a year of more activity and events in partnership with other sector organisations like Historic Environment Scotland, Glasgow International and Federation Scottish Theatre, as well as seeing me out and about across Scotland as usual in Aberdeen, Dundee, Dumfries, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness at events like Celtic Connections, Spectra’s Catalyst conference, the Scottish Book Trade conference and XpoNorth.

One of the most inspiring moments of the year was attending the kick-off meeting for beneficiaries in Brussels in October. This meant over 200 beneficiaries buzzing around, talking about their projects and collaboration across Europe, and some exciting chats about finances and reporting too (!). For me it was great to meet the 12 UK lead partners and hear them contributing to European-level conversations, as well as meeting the partners from other European countries. It really brought the scope of Creative Europe alive. Only seven Desks can attend each year, and I joined colleagues from Luxembourg, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, France and Romania as friendly faces to help new beneficiaries find their feet (and they were also able to approach me for advice on Brexit). 

In July we celebrated our most successful round of Cooperation Projects results yet in Scotland, including four projects led by Scottish organisations, and I enjoyed having a quieter moment over a dinner with these new beneficiaries, as well as roping in a fellow compatriot from the European Commission to join us too!

> Scotland's Cooperation Projects success

Stephanie Grant, Creative Europe Desk UK - England

2018 year was my first IETM meeting in Porto, which was an excellent place to network, share knowledge and get a sense of the issues and opportunities facing the arts sector in Europe and beyond. This year I’ve also especially enjoyed spending time in Northern English cities including Leeds, Newcastle and Hull, where the cultural sector is determined to keep European partnerships going and expand their international networks despite the tricky political context. 

"Energy and excitement vibrated off the walls, and it was clear to see the immediate impact of the collaboration on the artists."

An inspiring experience for me was visiting Plovdiv and learning about its role as a 2019 European Capital of Culture, and how with European cultural investment they have made huge changes to the city and the lives of the its residents. 

> Look back on Steph's blog: A first first-timer's view of IETM

Zoe Hardie, Creative Europe Desk UK 

2018 has taken me to cities across the UK, where it’s been a pleasure to work with our team of cultural sector experts to help them deepen engagement with Creative Europe. 2018 was another bumper year for Cooperation Projects, supporting some really exciting organisations as diverse as Scottish Ensemble, Take Art, Ffotogallery Wales and Barbican. It’s been fun getting beneficiaries to celebrate their successes, including through our #CooperationProjects campaign (and extra heart-warming to see them congratulate each other!). 2018 was also a year where we made inroads in showing the value of Creative Europe beyond the funding in areas like audiences, innovation and society, and it was great to see our Impacts Report get so much attention from press and government. 

My inspirational high point was the CONNECT! Forum on the Value of Networks. I was blown away by the ‘power of the collective voice’ panel which championed the role of networks in driving social change and featured case studies from Creative Europe networks that promote women in the music industry (Keychange), socially conscious documentary, and theatre policy (IETM), as well as the Creative Diversity Network that pushes for a more diverse broadcasting sector.

> Watch the videos from the CONNECT! Forum on the Value of Networks

Sophie Hayles, Creative Europe Desk UK – Northern Ireland

Looking back on 2018 I would acknowledge in particular my collaboration with the Ireland Desk; we’ve devised and delivered joint events, co-advised applicants and worked hard to make fruitful connections. I’ve been energised by activity in Northern Ireland inspired by the European Year of Cultural Heritage, in a new partnership between Tourism NI, Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Division (Department for Communities) and Arts Council of Northern Ireland.  I also experienced my first interactive/immersive exhibition: Alternate Realities at Sheffield Doc/Fest (as I work across MEDIA and Culture). 

> Read Sophie's recap of the Business Models events in Belfast and Dublin

Christoph Jankowski, Creative Europe Desk UK - England

2018 has been an eventful year in which I’ve been inspired by organisations’ and people’s determination in the face of continued Brexit uncertainties. The optimism has been remarkable and I feel has refreshed our purpose: advocating for European collaboration on inspiring projects such as PRSF’s Keychange and Eclipe Theatre’s Slate. In September, a good number of UK beneficiary organisations came together to discuss their projects and how to advocate for European collaboration and the Creative Europe programme. 

The Impacts report, for which we received a lot of input from beneficiaries, has backed up with strong evidence what we knew but weren’t yet able to demonstrate: the benefits of Creative Europe cooperation goes way beyond the monetary value. The compelling figures and stories in the report have supported our advocacy work, helping make the case for how well embedded the UK’s arts and cultural sectors are across Europe.

The Beyond Brexit event at BOZAR in September, and recommendations by over 60 creative professionals, was similarly a strong moment, with achievable and actionable ways forward in making continued cultural collaborating happen despite the UK Government’s apparent determination for a radical departure from the EU.

Finally I’ve been inspired by how the Creative Europe Desk UK team have pulled together, both in the face of uncertainty as well as to support UK organisations and their partnerships and applications for for Cooperation Projects. With another strong year of results, it is reassuring in these exceptional times.

> See the recemmendations from the Bozar event Moving Beyond Brexit

Katie James, Creative Europe Desk UK – Wales

Joining the Creative Europe Desk in Wales mid-February 2018, I launched straight in, meeting a diverse bunch of applicants right across Wales. Two highlights of the year:

1. The IETM Satellite meeting in Llandudno on working in a rural context. International delegates brought a broad range of practice and experience, in the performing arts, and fed into lively and relevant debate, and there were excellent networking opportunities.

2. Womex 2018 in Gran Canaria, working alongside the Creative Europe Desks from Spain, Portugal and The Netherlands. The incredible mix of genre and culture from the World music sector was reflected in the programme. There was a buzz around the Creative Europe presentations, including Music Moves Europe, the European Commission’s initiative in support of the European Music Sector. Two projects I showcased [Innovation Network of European Showcases (INES]) and [Keychange] were particularly relevant, and delegates could reflect with their own experience.

A moment of inspiration: Gwyn Emberton Dance, a partner in the iCoDaCo Cooperation Project invited me to meet the artists as part of the Welsh leg of the project. This turned out to be pastries and coffee in a small corridor outside the studio with the artists taking a break from rehearsals. Energy and excitement vibrated off the walls, and it was clear to see the immediate impact of the collaboration on the artists.

Images: Clockwise from top left: Sophie Hayles, Kate Deans, Stephanie Grant, Christoph Jankowski, Katie James, Zoe Hardie