Archive for the 'Conference' Category

Conference in Pictures

Images from the Conference

We’ve been busy taking pictures at the Intercultural Cities conference. Some of the best are on Flickr here:

If you also have pictures to share, please upload them to and tag them with “interculturalcities” and other relevant tags. Enjoy!


Telling the conference story

Telling the conference story
Mike Jempson

The Story Begins
St George’s Hall in the middle of Liverpool is a challenging venue for a 21 century European conference on inter-culturalism. The £23 million spent on its refurbishment has done nothing to eradicate the echoes of empire. Opened in 1854 to house music festivals and a courtroom, it remains an over-powering construction. As we set up our ‘virtual newsroom’ amidst its vast gloomy emptiness we all wondered how we could tell ‘the story’ of inter-culturalism from a city that earned its wealth from the slave trade. Unbeknownst to us Brouhaha troubadours will point the way by the end of the first day.

First things first – film the set up. That’s the easy bit. Then get our disparate team together to compare notes and agree a running order, and film that. All very post-modern. Telling a story about story-telling by showing how the story tellers construct the story.

Nela Milic\'s Installation

And while we are at it, why not an ironic arty ‘installation’ to demonstrate just how disposable our efforts can be – not a cat tray filled with newsprint but a washing line amid drifts of newsprint, so passers-by can wring out the inevitable lies and distortions that emerge when time constraints limit our professionalism, or when profit-making and propaganda overtake the desire to tell the truth.

Discussing the plot

And as for deadlines – the adrenalin pump that keeps we hacks alive – let’s premiere the film at the final session before the delegates depart for home stimulant. In the meantime we’ll pick up stories and quotes and pictures as we come across them. The conference is trying to be different so we can try too – but our trade has its own internal disciplines that are hard to abandon. We have spelled them out in notes for those delegate who want to become citizen journalists while they are here – find the facts, check they are accurate, quote eye-witnesses and reliable sources, construct the story clearly, know your audience, and always distinguish between comment and fact.

Our inter-cultural team has print and broadcast and on-line experience and all the digital paraphernalia of the robo-hack. We hail from Cameroon and Greece and India and Ireland and Pakistan and Serbia. Three men, five women pooling our resources to keep the three days covered inside and outside the conference venue.

Our aim: to collect and disseminate material that speaks of inter-culturalism – the debate, the dilemmas, the diversity – and encourages others (especially our media colleagues) elsewhere to find new ways of making space for those whose voices are seldom heard, and using the immense power of mass media for cohesion instead of confusion.

It would help in the Internet was working, but apparently the City Council is worried we’ll spend the next few days viewing porn and stealing people’s identities. Leave that to the ’techies and get on with the story.

Soon the teams are at work, snapping shots of anyone and anything that takes our fancy, shooting footage that will generate instant nostalgia in just a few days time, interviewing cultural gurus and their acolytes, and listening out for gems of wisdom and the gaffes that make people grin.

We select our storytellers unsure what stories they will tell, and send them off on location to places delegates may see on Saturday, or may never see because the local authorities would prefer we did not disturb their plans to up-end ‘the world in a street’ in the name of regeneration.

Journalism is always about uncovering uncomfortable truths, but is also about telling positive stories too. We set to work, hoping our efforts will bear some fruit, here, there and in cyberspace. The legacy of such conferences now last longer than ever thanks to the information super-highway… if anyone can find the way through the myriad spaghetti junctions and the wayside blogs.

We hope our signals will point the way towards a future where diversity is recognised as a force for good, and where journalism will be appreciated because it allows different voices to emerge from the multitude and contribute to common understanding of our shared humanity.

And, of course, we hope there’ll be applause when our story is screened.

The Band….

On the opening night of the Intercultural Cities conference, there was a party at Liverpool Town Hall. These great images were taken by Martin Pinder’s team. Text by Martin Pinder.

East Meets West

“A local Liverpool Roma Band from Kensington played for Conference delegates at Liverpool Town Hall on Wednesday night at a Welcome Reception headed by Liverpool City Council’s Chief Executive Officer, Colin Hilton. ‘Gypsy Brothers’ come from Kensington, L6 and L7, an Inner City neighbourhood which is participating in the European Year of Dialogue Conference in Liverpool on ‘Inter-Cultural Cities’. The Band hails from the Czech Republic and Slovakia and came over to Liverpool since the EU Accession in May 2004 when some 10? countries including the Czech Republic and Slovakia joined the European Union.”

Father and Son

“Band leader and bass guitarist Jan Bendig Snr ( left, background ) is shown here with his son, Jan Bendig Jnr singer (foreground), when they performed with their ‘Gypsy Brothers’ band at Liverpool Town Hall on Wednesday night. Romas ( “gypsies” ) migrated from Radjisthan and Punjab, India, centuries ago to Europe and beyond where they have influence music not only in Europe ( flamenco) but also in North Africa and South America. Indian culture is traditionally passed on from parent to sibling, often with certain castes specialising in different fields. This tradition lives on with the Bendig family in Kensington, Liverpool, where they live. Jan Bendig, son, is a pupil at the Kensington Academy of St Francis of Assisi and sings in Czech and the Roma languages. Jan looks forwad to mastering song in English.”

Music Has No Frontiers

“A full-turn out of East and Central Europeans was present at Liverpool Town Hall on Wednesday night when the local Liverpool Roma Band from Kensington played for Conference delegates at a Welcome Reception. ‘Gypsy Brothers’ are shown here with guest-of-honour Dr Vladimir Sucha, Director for Culture Communication and Multilingualism at the Directorate General for Education and Culture of the European Commission. Dr Sucha from Slovakia was pleased to see fellow Slovakians and Czechs who make up the band spreading his region’s culture in Liverpool. From left to right, Ales Olah guitar; Geoffrey Brown, Director of EUCLID, organisers of the Inter-Culutural Cities Conference; Rene Gabor drums; Dr Valdimir Sucha; Jan Bendig Jnr, singer; Mario Zeman, guitar; Jan Bendig Snr, band leader and guitar.”

Larger versions of these images available at

My reflections

A fascinating event that has stimulated lots of thoughts and generated some questions for me:-

Is interculturalism desirable?

Why do we want or need intercultralism?

Whose interests does interculturalism serve?

Is interculturalism just a new term for long standing issues? I’ve noticed, for example, that more than one speaker seems to use interculturalism interchangeably with ‘diversity’.

There’s also a sense that interculturalism seems very ‘problem centred’, with the emphasis on conflict or even ‘hatred’ between communities, strangers not getting on, etc.

I share with Bikhu Parekh and Ash Amin a concern about taking interculturalism outside its political and national context. For me, I’d come to see interculturalism as a framework to get beyond the idea of cultures as fixed and immutable, with people locked in boxes or silos defined by their ethnic cultures. In this sense, interculturalism seemed to me to be about how cultures are continually shaped, reshaped and changed, new fusions are borne out of a dynamic process of interaction where people come to form a new sense of belonging around ‘place’ while still being able to assert their own self-defined identity – as black woman, disabled person, Muslim young person.

Some of today’s presentations however seem to take us back to notions of ‘them’ and ‘us’, giving greater value to ‘host’ cultures as somehow more pure and talked about ‘tribal cultures’ clashing with dominant host cultures, which I found disturbing. To what extent this is raising a wider question of whether or not we can engage in intercultural dialogue across national boundaries where language and political contexts are so different is one of the issues that I think needs to be considered. At the very least I think there is a need for a common and shared language to enable effective and meaningful dialogue and debate to take place with people from across different nations.

One final point, there has so far been a complete lack of mention of human rights in the debate. Is this absence an oversight? Do we see human rights as integral to the interculturalism debate and if so, we need to ensure it has a highe profile and visibility in future dialogues.

Lorna Shaw

The missing aspects

In my opinion the conference focused on how the host city and its inhabitants can make the migrant group part of the large community, but only by indicating what the hosts should do for them.

I personally think that intercultural approachoes should be established by the two parties involved:

the immigrants should want to be part of the host community and make efforts to align him/her to the culture and invironment of the city.

the governments should draw up rules to be followed by everybody: natives and migrants in equal terms. Sometimes, in order to maintain political relationships the police and bodies expected to enforce the law ignore what it is happening in certain communities, and they identify these situations as “domestic incidents”. By so doing the natives will see that there are no special treatements for the new comers and will see them as equals.

The central governments, on the other hand should recognize that after a certain period of honest work, best behaviour and payment of taxes in any country, the migrant should obtain automatically the nationality of that particular country.

These are a few ideas that may help in establishing interculturalism.


unanswered questions

day two of the conference

it seems as if we were going home with more questions than we came with……. is that a good or a bad thing?

greetings from Liechtenstein delegation

Images from Intercultural Cities

Brian Cross ( has been busily taking photgraphs of the first day of the Intercultural Cities Conference. We have been uploading them throughout the day to flickr and will continue to do so as the conference progresses to see these images click here.

Intercultural Photos

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