The Cultural Leadership International Programme 2011 has kicked off here in Istanbul, bringing together 47 emerging cultural leaders from the Middle East, South Africa, Central Asia and Europe to discuss their role in the wider development of the cultural and creative sectors.
After the first evening of introductions from the British Council and the first choir session run by last year's CLI participant from Egypt Salam Yousry, participants were drawn together at the new and amazing SALT Galata, housed in the former 19th century Imperial Ottoman Bank’s headquarters, to examine and discuss aspects of cultural policy and its role in ensuring the sector's overall development.
Facilitated by Simon Dancey, the International Director at the UK's Creative and Cultural Skills (the UK's national agency for skills' promotion in the creative and cultural sector) the participants spent the morning discussing the different ways in which policy-making can support the development of culture - from its role in protecting local culture, shaping national identity and ensuring diversity, to the support of the sector's economic development of the sector (regulations, infrastructure), its educational needs and its international links. The group heard short provocations from a panel of experts in the field - Josephine Burns, Director of BOP Consulting, UK; Salwa Mikidadi, Head of Arts and Culture Program at the Emirates Foundation in Dubai; Salma Mobarak, a member of Egypt's Cultural Policy Advisory Group in Cairo and Tamara Tatishvili, the Director of the Georgian National Film Centre in Tbilisi.
These presentations were followed by intense, facilitated discussions in smaller groups, where participants where able to continue exploring the current state of their local cultural policies, its needs and weak points, as well as the commonalities with other models around the world. They were also able to further their understanding of the importance of policy support for the sector, and the need to bring this agenda together with other government support programmes in education and economic development. Finally, practical approaches to lobbying and influencing governments in this area were discussed, as well as ways in which to ensure adequate representation of the sector within the government, in trade associations and other intermediate agencies.
After lunch, Salam Yousry facilitated a second choir session with the group - this time asking each small group to compose (and then sing) a song! Salam, a former CLI participant from Egypt, founded his Choir Project in Cairo as an offshoot of the international Complaints Choir, a project initiated by 2 Finnish artists with the aim of 'transforming the huge energy people put into complaining into something else', training people to transform their political and social dissatisfaction into songs.
The day concluded with a tour, curated by Turkish architect and urban planner Yasar Adanali, of Istanbul's Golden Horn, tracing its transformation from an industrial area to a cultural corridor. Yasar contrasted the different cultural spaces that have developed in the area, from the popular (and publicly funded) Miniatürk, a model village showcasing Turkish history and identity, to the privately funded Santralistanbul (Bilgi University's Museum of Energy and one of the most famous industrial regeneration projects of the past years around the world), to Eyüp Municipality's cultural centre - a temple space, at the heart of one of Istanbul's oldest and most conservative neighbourhoods, which reaches out to the local community to disseminate traditional skills. To read more about this tour, click here.