This summer I attended the Edinburgh International Culture Summit, joining ministers of culture and delegations of cultural leaders from 45 countries aiming to bridge the gap between art making and policy making. The 4th annual event, ‘Culture: Connecting People and Places’, was held at the Scottish Parliament, which is designed by Enric Miralles and built into the magnificent hills of Edinburgh.
The summit included sessions on three main themes: Culture and Investment, Culture in a Networked World and Culture and Wellbeing. There was also a focus on young people, with a youth forum integrated into the programme and additional private sessions to facilitate discussion between artists, practitioners and policymakers.
The sessions on investment and infrastructure kicked off with a conversation between Richard Sennett and Liz Deller on the role of the architect in addressing gentrification caused by projects like the High Line. Speakers reflected that this was not just about money but valuing other resources such as space, seen in the trend for mapping under-used areas and zoning them. The session concluded that ‘culture was not a crude tool of regeneration’ and a life of true wealth lay in the confidence and self worth that sensitive placemaking could provide.
The real star of the show was, of course, Edinburgh itself, teaming with artists and audiences high on enjoying the various festivals. There are warnings that this is a city on the brink of too much success, but for now it still seems a pretty good example of art and culture giving a city life, investment and identity.