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Notes from Trustees: My March Mission in Latvia

LogoDiana Pasek-Atkinson, one of our two EM Regional Coordinators was invited to attend a British Council Latvia Conference in March. Diana Writes:

Back in March I had the privilege of an invitation to be AD: uk’s “woman in Latvia” presenting on my “specialist subject” at a creative industries conference. I flew to Riga as a guest of the British Council Latvia http://www.britishcouncil.lv/  their intern Evarts, an MA student at The Latvian Academy of Culture, was my right hand man during the trip. I took up a second invitation to give a lecture to Evarts and his fellow Masters students on the Management of Culture and Creative Industries Programme which was a very enjoyable start to my visit.

DianaThe following day a snowy couple of hours car ride north took us to Cēsis. The foot or so of fresh snow didn’t stop around 50 creatives and culture professionals also getting to the picturesque venue, Cēsis New Castle. The New Castle, which dates from the 18th Century, is sited right next to the old, a stunning Teutonic ruin and major Latvian tourist attraction. http://www.cesis.lv/lv/kultura/kulturas-iestades

The conference I addressed, titled “The Role of Artists and Creative Industries in Local Development” http://www.cesis.lv/lv/sakums/aktualitates/kultura/veiksmigi-nosledzies-cesu—tartu-kulturas-sad, marked the culmination of a joint Latvian/Estonian project and consequently (and I confess to my relief) the operating language of the event was English. Latvian cannot be an easy language to learn, however with Evarts as my tutor I managed, at least, to master the name of the place I was presenting in (not at all how it appears to an English tongue!) plus of course, an essential in any language, how to say thank you!

The morning presentations on the projects in both countries had familiar themes; creation of incubation spaces for start ups, professional artists working with communities, festivals and art displays involving communities, artists training, small grants for social enterprise initiatives in empty shops. A creativity week Radi! now in its second year (which has a double meaning in Latvian; create / relatives) http://www.radilatvija.lv/en

Latvia has an Arts Education Centre in Riga http://www.triskrasas.lv with artist training themes very similar to those in the UK. Creative Estonia has a cultural portal www.looveesti.ee The Estonian initiatives included an artist’s mentoring and training scheme which was entirely web-based using Skype and email consultation in modular format. Both countries are outward looking and inspired by good practice from across the world are building their own creative connections. Along with my contribution Lisbeth Rysgaard from the Danish Artlab http://artlab.dk/ presented an interesting model of “The Artist House” which maps the competencies required for creatives.

The afternoon culminated in a stimulating panel discussion where I was faced with some difficult, thought provoking questions including; “Does our society value artists?” “What role do artists play in smaller communities?” and a debate around what is a favourable political environment for creativity to thrive.

At the end of the day I enjoyed a guided tour of the Old Castle, stepping somewhat cautiously through the ruins in the snow and carrying a candle lantern to navigate the dark staircase up to the great hall! The evening was completed in the converted stable/carriage buildings adjacent to both castles with music, food, wine and good conversation.

Online image library of conference by professional photographer http://failiem.lv/u/ukxlpyj

Diana Pasek-Atkinson is the East Midlands Regional Coordinator for AD:uk and is Strategic Arts Devt Officer: Creative Industries for Notts CC.