From Wednesday to Friday I have been in Ghent in Belgium at the AGM and conference of Amateo: the European Network for Active Participation in Cultural Activities. This year the Amateo conference was combined with Compendium – the annual meeting of experts and editors of the Council of Europe ‘Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe’ (http://www.culturalpolicies.net) to create an ‘International Congress on Active Cultural Participation in Europe’.
On Wednesday the two groups met separately: the Amateo AGM included a presentation about how we might secure European Union advocacy network funding for Amateo and presentations about the three linked Weeks of Amateur/Voluntary Arts in Flanders, The Netherlands and Scotland. We agreed that Amateo’s main priority for the coming year will be to expand these Amateur Arts Weeks into more European countries and to develop exchange visits for amateur arts groups during the weeks. Voluntary Arts Wales Chair, Aled Rhys-Jones, was re-elected to the Amateo Board and Tom de Rooij, Director of Kunstfactor in The Netherlands, was elected President of Amateo, succeeding Villy Dall (from AKKS in Denmark) who stood down at the end of his three-year term. Villy was the main driving force behind the establishing of Amateo and we owe him a great deal: he will be much missed from the Board.
On Thursday and Friday we joined forces with the Compendium delegates for a series of sessions about active cultural participation and the amateur arts. We looked at research into active cultural participation throughout Europe and how we might establish some Europe-wide evidence about the scale, diversity and impact of the amateur arts. This was followed by a look at how active cultural participation is supported throughout Europe, drawing on the current entries for each country in the Compendium. We also took part in conference sessions about: volunteering in the arts and the European Year of Volunteering 2011; arts participation, minority communities and intercultural activity; and cultural participation amongst the 50+ generation (in preparation for the European Year of Active Ageing 2012). We visited Trafiek – a community arts organisation based in one of the more deprived neighbourhoods of Ghent – to see the Brugse Poorten project which worked with local people and community groups to create 101 flags to adorn 77 gates in the Pierkespark. And we enjoyed a guided tour of the amazing, recently-opened Ghent City Museum (STAM) which tells the story of Ghent by combining a 13th century abbey with the very latest digital technology.
It was an extremely enjoyable and interesting conference. It was good to get the Compendium authors thinking seriously about the amateur arts. Next year Voluntary Arts will be hosting the Amateo AGM and conference in London: Kaat Peeters and her team from Forum voor Amateurkunsten in Flanders have set a very high standard for us to follow.
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