Culture for Resilience Forum sparks new ideas and builds connections

More than 100 municipality and NGO representatives, as well as other actors from the Baltic Sea region, gathered in the hospitable town Jakobstad/Pietarsaari on 7-8 May for the first Culture for Resilience Forum to discuss how engaging in cultural activities can strengthen communities and make them more resilient to external shocks.

“Resilience is not only about defense and crisis preparedness. It also means the social connections, trusting your institutions, it might be democratic participation, having an engaged local public that makes your society more resilient. Cities have a role to play in creating the conditions for communities to feel a stronger attachment. Culture is one way of doing it.”

Said the coordinator of the project “BSR Cultural Pearls” Felix Schartner Giertta at the opening of the Forum.

The keynote speakers of the forum – Stefanie Raab (coopolis), Ramon Marrades (Placemaking Europe) and Jaakko Blomberg (Helsinki Urban Art) – set the tone for discussions in the forum, sharing their insights and examples of how putting the needs of the communities at the heart of cultural life can achieve a range of positive effects.

Rather than being perfect, it is important to do things and have fun, said Jaakko Blomberg, the organizer of the Helsinki Sauna Day, Dinner under the Helsinki sky and many other events that have become popular among the locals and even bring tourists to the city. These events often have a very simple idea and feed into people’s needs, for example, sauna is a very natural way for Finnish people to socialize, but not everyone has a sauna. So on the Helsinki Sauna say the private saunas in flats, hotel rooms and on the streets open for everyone’s use, bringing people together.

During the forum four workshops took place, focusing on real challenges the cities and towns, which are part of the BSR Cultural Pearls programme, face. The forum shed light on topics like challenges of a multilingual city, which, for example, the town of Jakobstad/Pietarsaari is facing. Even though there are many mixed Swedish-Finnish families, in the daily life one or another language group often feels excluded. Now with inspiration and mentorship by the BSR Cultural Pearls project, the active residents of the town plan to develop a landmark building, the Old Fire station, into a meeting and cultural exchange place for both language communities and the people who have moved to Jakobstad recently and speak other languages. In developing this space into a culture place, the needs and wishes of communities should be listened to and they should be involved in creating the space, concluded the workshop participants.

In other workshops creative ideas sparked up about including people with special needs or youngsters and the older generation in the cultural life.

“Sharing knowledge is a both-way process. For example, elderly people want to learn better how to use mobile phones, but some young people want to learn how to take photos with a retro camera that uses film.

Said one of the workshop leaders Ramon Marrades.

The Culture for Resilience Forum is part of the BSR Cultural Pearls project, co-funded by the EU’s Interreg programme. The project, implemented by a consortium of 12 partner organizations, aims to strengthen social resilience in Baltic Sea Region municipalities by harnessing the potential of local assets of culture and creativity.