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20 / 10 / 2017

What are the cultural connections between urban and rural?

Author Talis Tisenkopfs

An interview with Talis Tisenkopfs (Senior researcher, Baltic Studies Centre, Latvia), the leader of ROBUST's Community of Practice on cultural connections.

Reposted from http://rural-urban.eu/news/cultural-connections-robust

What is the most pressing current issue or challenge related to cultural connections (in the context of rural-urban linkages)?

The key challenge is to properly understand the rural/urban cultural synergies and connections and employ them for sustainable development.  This challenge leads to two other important questions: what are the specific cultural values and assets at hand, and how can people organisations cooperate or jointly govern culture at the regional level.

What is a misconception about rural and/or urban areas regarding this topic?

The main difficulty arises from the fluid and multifaceted nature of culture – it is difficult to define. There are ‘hard ‘and ‘soft’, material and immaterial culture, institutions and activities, production and consumption, heritage, tradition, innovation and many other manifestations of culture. Actors may need brevity to define their own cultural visions, align along them and undertake an endeavour to embed culture in the regional development. Dialogue and collaboration matter, as different groups may have divergent visions regarding culture.

How can rural and urban areas mutually benefit from cooperating on cultural connections issues?

In a globalised and urbanised society cities become sites of consumption of a certain type of culture (institutional culture: museums, concerts; consumerist culture: shopping malls, leisure centres, etc.). There is a flow of cultural consumption into urban centres. Rural areas in turn provide other kind of cultural consumption – heritage sites, often temporary venues, such as festivals and events. Many aspects of rural areas have a cultural and symbolic significance, e.g. nature in Latvia, castles in Wales, or local products in the Province of Lucca. Digital culture, mass media and mobility intersect the classical boundaries between rural and urban, making new cultural assets and activities possible. Creative industries and cultural enterprises experiment with new business models and enlarge the offer of cultural activities. Urban interest in rural culture may cause also tensions, like gentrification of rural areas with urban high culture – e.g. development of galleries, theatres, or concert halls by wealthy urban organisations. The "high culture" narrative may take over the other narratives of the place.

Which ROBUST living labs will be dealing with this Community of Practice (CoP)?

Several ROBUST living labs - as well as other Communities of Practice - are keen to deal with cultural connections and promote them. The regions particularly interested are Tukums municipality in Latvia, the Province of Lucca in Italy, Mid Wales in the UK and Styria Metropolitan Area in Austria. Other living labs have also shown interest in the issues of cultural connections.

Can you name a few current best practices/good examples in this field (in research or, preferably, in practice)?

We have already identified several good practice examples testifying to productive urban-rural cultural linkages. For example, there is a tendency to organise international events in very rural areas (e.g. jazz festival in Sardinia, also examples from Austria) which create reputation for places and promote their external image. In Latvia traditional song and dance festivals are organised at the local level, however they attract also international and regional interest. In Italy some municipalities pay broadcasting companies to be featured in television series in order to raise their profile and attract tourists. In rural Tuscany tourism is strongly related to traditional food culture, wine routes and tasting local products. In many rural places culture is related to tourism, but there is much more than tourism – the history, legacy, identity and people of the place. What is not so much evidenced in the scientific research and practical projects is an exclusion of certain groups (like migrants, young generations, vulnerable populations) from the beneficial cultural ties between urban and rural caused by processes of migration, depopulation and gentrification.

What are the main ROBUST activities that will take place surrounding cultural connections?

The living labs involved with cultural connections will explore the possibilities to formulate and develop Cultural Strategies of the regions concerned.  This ambition gives the cultural CoP a practical purpose. During the ROBUST project the cultural CoP will discuss and share experiences on how Cultural Strategies are set up, organised and implemented in different regions. The CoP aims to identify, analyse and promote the strategic lines over which the regions may work together to enhance the role of culture in sustainable development.

What are the main outputs you expect from ROBUST in this thematic area?

The cultural CoP has agreed to focus its work on Cultural Strategies of the regions.  The common frame and questions are under development. The idea is to develop Cultural Strategies, discuss visions, prepare an inventory of cultural assets, document and promote key cultural connections, consult with local stakeholders and involve them in ROBUST activities.