Posts Tagged 'intercultural cities'

‘Contacting the World’ comes to Liverpool

This summer Liverpool, Europe’s Capital of Culture for 2008, will showcase the outcome of an unusual theatre twinning scheme that brings together teenagers from across the world.

Since 2002 European theatre companies have been twinning with counterparts in other parts of the world, in a project that encourages young people aged 15-25 to explore each other’s lives through performance.

Aaron Cunningham, a young artist from Manchester’s Contact Theatre Company, described to DiverCities his experience of an exchange with Afro-Reggae, a theatre group based in Rio de Janeiro which sought to offer young people an alternative to the attentions of the police or the gangs.

“Through Afro-Reggae young people living in the favellas (shantytowns) got the chance to visit places outside their favella, read their poetry to people elsewhere and even got to other shanty towns,” he said. “It was a real eye-opener for me.”

Meanwhile back in Manchester youngsters use improvisation to dramatise stories based on random items and actions.

Both groups have sent each other CDs of their favourite music tracks, with explanations about what makes them so special.

The two groups also swapped boxes of artefacts associated with their lives. Aaron sent a piece of marble given to him by his grandmother just before she died. He was unaware that a Brazilian girl had sent to Manchester a large smooth, egg-shaped stone her father had plucked from the sea two days before he died. For her it contained his spirit and she hoped he would bless her friends in England. The Contact Theatre group have developed a play around her story.

It is these kinds of connections that make the project such a remarkable method of connecting young people who might never get to meet although they do use Facebook too.

All of which promises to make the final festival of fun very special indeed.

For more information see
Or contact Julia Turpin (Project Director): +44 (0161) 274 0631


Milica Pesic – The Media: Part of the Problem or the solution?

Milica Pesic, Director of Media Diversity Institute will be giving a presentation tomorrow afternoon in the style of Pecha Kucha a style of presentation originated in Japan which allows work to be easily and informally shown (click here for more information.) Milica’s presentation will focus on the ways media can provide the space and mediate dialogue between different individuals and communities.

Her presentation slide show can be seen below.


Conversations at the conference with Sir Bob Scott

“Multiculturalism is important insofar as it breeds sympathy and a sense of belonging and welcome – so everyone is respected with their own background.

“We encourage the building of mosques and temples, for example, so you don’t lose your character by being in this country. We also expect you to obey UK law but we are keen to encourage the notion of people living under one roof.

“But it has also led to the creation of ghettoes. In one northern city, for example, 20,000 people from North India and Pakistan all live close together in one area. So there is a problem for the second generation living a terrible double life – with their parents who may not have learned English and going to an English speaking school. So they live a very difficult life…

So inter-culturalism has become more important – because people feel they can genuinely participate in every conceivable way and become British first without losing their Indian identity

Something like 50 percent of the population of Liverpool claim an Irish background – so we have always had the notion of Liverpool Irish. And like any big port, we have small but well-established maritime communities of sailors and merchant seamen from China, Somalia and Sri Lanka as well as Italy and Spain, for instance. So we have always seen ourselves as ‘the world in one city’.

Liverpool has great cathedrals and one of the great synagogues in the country. In 2004 we had a faith community year with Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Jews all working together and participating in their own ways.

We’re trying to develop inter-culturalism here without it being painful or unnatural. The worse thing we can do is make such an effort of political correctness that people get very put off by it.

What we believe passionately is that what leads to riots and real unhappiness is a multi-culturalism that leads to real ghettoes. We need inter-culturalism that develops respect for other cultures – living cultures talking to each other.”

Quick Quotes

Candid comments picked up at the Intercultural Cities Conference, Liverpool, 1–3 May

Oscar Watson
Milica Pesic
G. Pascal Zachary
Chris Edwards

1. “What culture are the sandwiches from?” delegate leaving dining room

2. “It ain’t necessarily so!” retort from Oscar Watson, Director of Northern Cultural Diversity Arts Forum when Milica Pesic, Director of the Media Diversity Institute, claimed that things are more creative when the majority of the people you work with things are women.

3 “Paying attention to diverse peoples make for a stronger more legitimate and trusted journalism,” according to G. Pascal Zachary author of Diversity Advantage and one of the speakers at Intercultural Cities Conference.

4. “Can Britain learn a lot from other countries about interculturalism and the city? You bet! We’re not about telling but sharing and listening.

“The British Council tries to build relationships of trust and mutual understanding between the UK and the rest of the world. But any conversation must have two voices, so we need to know what is going on in England, Wales Scotland and Northern Ireland – that is why we have brought 17 people to Liverpool for this conference.

“We are working on projects about the development of cities and the impact of migration elsewhere in Europe and East Asia” Chris Edwards, England Director, British Council

He told DiverCities that parallels between the way in which urban based media effectively silences rural peoples by largely ignoring them, in the same way that vulnerable disavantaged groups are silenced in urban areas. Some of the techniques used to give voice to the people in rural areas, he argues, could and should be used to give a voice to marginalised groups in urban areas. To read his essay about the role of media in developing countries, click here.

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.

Interculturalism: Thoughts from Session 1

Five very good presentations and no time for questions. That is the problem of too many conferences. Where are the timekeepers?

Nonetheless, here are the ideas from the first two presentations that intrigued me that I hope to find time to follow on with panelists this afternoon…

The civic is made out of the work of overcoming difference without weaponry. – Saskia Sassen

We must be able to invent new instruments to deal with difference and in their making we will be inventing the new civic. – Sassen

Concerns about national security and national unity have merged into one and spawned the question of who belongs? – Ash Amin

It is unrealistic to expect us to “know our neighbor” and much more so to “love our neighbor.” The best we can hope for is “thrown togetherness” or “tacit publicness.” Chess between strangers in public spaces is a good example of this and it produces “studied trust.” If we want to deal with interculturalism productively, it is critical to repopulate public spaces.” Bazaars and community gardens are examples. Urbanism with a light touch is called for. Urban conviviality should be the ambition rather than the necessity of empathy. There are simply limits to how much interpersonal contact we can expect. – Amin


Six Maasai warriors attracted the lion’s share of UK media coverage when they took part in the 2008 London Marathon to raise money for fresh water supplies to their village in Tanzania.

Much was made of Visiting England: A Cultural Briefing, the guidebook provided by their sponsors, Greenforce, to prepare them for the surprises they would encounter. British people it warned, ‘may look like they have a frown on their face, (but) they are very friendly people – many of them just work in offices, jobs they don’t enjoy, and so they do not smile as much as they should’.

Spitting may be okay back home, but in England it is best done ‘in a sink or in some trees when no one is looking’. Urination should take place in a lavatory ‘rather than the nearest bushes’, and if they see cows or sheep ‘in a field, seemingly left alone… remember that these animals are owned by someone and are being looked after’.

The Maasai made plenty of friends and interpersonal relationships are always the best way of appreciating another’s cultural identity. Guidebooks have a role to play, and art, film and music offer more public vehicles for expression. The print and electronic media combine both private and public techniques, and are the means by which broader messages can be communicated to, from and between governments and communities.

The nature of these messages determines the extent to which we acknowledge our similarities and differences, weaknesses and strengths, and our aspirations and anxieties.

When we know little about each other we tend to be suspicious and distrustful. Trust and respect have to be earned on an individual basis. Sometimes, literally, we don’t have the right language for communication. And we are more likely to misinterpret others’ behaviour if we have no understanding of cultural norms – about public greetings, for example, or celebrations, dress, food, hygiene, gender roles or religious belief.

Even recent history has shown that ignorance can be a killer. It is easier to foment violence and hatred when addressing audiences that lack basic information. It is more difficult to stirring up antipathy when personal acquaintance and knowledge has undermined the corrosive influence of stereotypes.

DiverCities is an attempt to demonstrate how mass media can create space for intercultural learning. Taking the themes and participants at the Intercultural Cities Conference in Liverpool as our starting point, a team of print and broadcast journalists will set out to tell stories about how people live, work, express themselves and interact in multi-cultural societies.

Our aim is to generate interest and enjoyment in breaking down barriers both between mass media and their publics, and between the different cultural communities that inhabit the great cities of Europe.

Our ‘virtual newsroom’ will include collaborations with local media and ‘citizen journalists’. Our stories – celebrating diversity, communicating about difference, and promoting understanding – will be distributed through the Internet. We hope they will inspire similar coverage throughout the new Europe and beyond.

Mike Jempson
Editor-in-chief, DiverCities
E-zine for the Intercultural Cities Conference, Liverpool 1-3 May 2008

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