GCDN Conversations

Facilitated discussions between peers

Join the conversation

We at GCDN are committed to supporting our members through these turbulent times: by providing you with a safe forum through which you can share your individual experiences with peers all around the world and begin to collectively sort your thinking of the ongoing impact of this pandemic.

This page will be updated regularly with information on upcoming conversations and details on past phases. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Upcoming conversations

This agenda is ongoing and we will regularly offer new sessions to address the topics at the forefront of our members’ concerns.

Register for our upcoming GCDN Conversations through the Zoom registration page embedded below.

GCDN Conversations: Live from Lugano

What are the new realities and challenges for cultural districts and their constituents?

These three sessions were part of a half-day of engaging discussion and insight, where we explored this moment for cultural districts. This virtual event also shone a spotlight on our event partner LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura in Switzerland – where we will be meeting in 2022 – and their role in the cultural ecology of Lugano.

GCDN Conversations: Riding the Experiential Train? – 2 June 2021


– Geoffrey Marsh, Director – Theatre and Performing Arts Department, V&A
– Meredith O’Shaughnessy, Founder, Meredith Collective
– Tom Piper, Theatre Designer
– Christos Carras, Director, Onassis Stegi (moderator)

Immersive experiences have been an established part of contemporary popular culture and entertainment for more than two decades. Immersive theatre has also become more common in the wake of productions like Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More – and for science, children’s and history museums, the approach has the potential to make abstract concepts tangible and to convey information in a compellingly memorable way. Exhibitions like the Victoria and Albert Museum’s David Bowie Is…? have managed to generate large attendances , a broad demographic and critical acclaim.

Many museums however have approached the experiential genre approach more cautiously. For art museums the mechanics of immersion have been thought disrespectful of the artist’s intentions. However, even here immersive experiences like the floor-to-ceiling projections of Van Gogh have found an audience – and artists themselves are producing immersive works with wide appeal, such as Random International’s Rain Room.

This panel explores the evolution of the experiential approach and its potential to generate compelling content and new curatorial directions to storytelling that engage broad audiences on which many cultural districts are premised, and explores the changing relationship between this type of approach, cultural institutions and the world of commercial entertainment.

Download the supporting article mentioned during the session here: https://bit.ly/3ibdgBH.

Lugano: Cultural Ecology of a Swiss City – 2 June 2021


– Michel Gagnon, General Manager of LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura
– Marco Franciolli, Board Member of Platform 10 Foundation, Lausanne
– Carmelo Rifici, Artistic Director of LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura
– Sandra Sain, Journalist and Head of Cultural Productions at the Swiss National Public Broadcast channel (moderator)

Over the last decade, the City of Lugano faced the challenge of reviving a consequent area of the historic town, including addressing a major lack of modern arts and cultural venues. To that end, the city unlocked major cultural infrastructure investment, centered around a flagship project: the LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura – which opened in September 2015, after 8 years of construction work and intense debate around the importance of that investment for the city.

The vision behind LAC was to create a state-of-the-art cultural venue and artistic reality with international breadth, as well as to develop a social project to engage and benefit the local community. Since 2015, the Direction of LAC has been successfully implementing this vision in partnership with the city, through high-quality international artistic programming, as well as through the activation of its public spaces, and educational activities to engage the community beyond a core audience.

After five years, LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura is playing a pivotal role in the arts and cultural scene both globally and locally and has become a driver in the design of future cultural investment regionally. How is LAC contributing to rebrand Lugano as an international cultural destination and to activate the regional cultural industry? What is the impact and the footprint of such a project for the region and its community?

GCDN Conversations: Are Cultural Districts Failing on Climate Action? – 2 June 2021


– Bert Determann, Co-Founder, 7 Square Endeavour
– Helen Kearney, Project Manager, City of London Corporation
– Sarie Mairs Slee, Head of Partnership, Salford Culture and Place Partnership
– Paul Toyne, Sustainability Leader, Grimshaw (moderator)

The impact and urgency of the climate crisis has never been more acutely felt, with daily warnings about existential threats – from biodiversity loss to unprecedented levels of global warming. Even those in geographies seemingly less challenged must deal with moral imperatives and pragmatic adjustments that have repercussions on daily life and engrained processes.

Cultural districts, with their strong community connections and focus on stories of place and people, have a potentially significant role to play in championing climate justice and in the shift towards more environmentally responsible futures. What are those responsibilities and how should they be met? What accommodations, and how should they be made?

GCDN Conversations: Series 6

New year, new GCDN Conversations series.

GCDN Conversations: Same Old/Brand New – Have We Simply Gone Back to Business as Usual? – 16 June 2021


– Theo Knipfing, Founder, Plus Curiosity
– Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, Director, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
– Shauna Weeks, Manager Communications and Programming, ‎Perth Theatre Trust
– Michael Woodsmall, Strategic Development Manager, WHY – moderator

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the arts and cultural sectors into a paradoxical situation. While lockdowns have intensified the demand for cultural and creative content, the cultural sector has also been one of the most affected by, and probably one of the latest to economically recover from the pandemic and its consequences. With vaccines now available, and an end to pandemic restrictions on the horizon for many countries (but not all), have cultural districts and institutions managed to find new and/or sustainable new ways of operating? Has the pandemic incited the cultural sector to re-examine their business models and source for new forms of financial support and revenue streams? Importantly, how can cultural districts better leverage on the new opportunities and build resilience to both foreseeable and unforecastable future change?

Watch this Conversation to hear from cultural leaders and arts managers on whether the global pandemic has truly enabled any innovations in the way we operate.

GCDN Conversations: Do cultural districts foster the creative economy? – 17 March 2021


– Malath Abbas, Director & Creative Producer, Biome Collective, Dundee
– Sian Bird, Head of Partnerships & Strategic Projects, Culture Mile, London
– Jo Lansdowne, Executive Producer, Pervasive Media Studio/Watershed, Bristol
– Sarie Mairs Slee, Head of Salford Culture and Place Partnership
– Jim Mawdsley, Principal Advisor Events and Culture, Newcastle City Council
– Professor Geoffrey Crossick, School of Advanced Study, University of London (moderator)

Commissioned by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC), which is led by Nesta and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, a recently released report by AEA Consulting explores the relationships between cultural organisations and local creative industries in the context of cultural districts in the UK.

Using the findings and recommendations of this report as a starting point, this Conversation brings together a panel of cultural and creative sector practitioners to explore key questions about cross-sector collaboration, innovation and mutual growth within cultural districts. How do individual geographies impact the relationships between the sectors? How can cultural districts facilitate the mutual development of cultural organisations and local creative industries? What might be the areas for organic co-creation and innovation? What are some barriers to greater collaboration?

Download the report here: https://bit.ly/3c4gS3C.

GCDN Conversations: So what have we learned in the last year? – 2 March 2021


– Marcus Davey, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the Roundhouse – UK
– Diane Drubay, Curator & Founder, We Are Museums – Germany
– Stephanie Fortunato, Director of Providence’s Department of Art, Culture + Tourism – USA
– András Szántó, Author and Cultural Consultant (moderator)

The pandemic has hit the cultural sector in different cities in diverse ways, depending on both public health policy and the extent of government support for arts institutions, cultural workers and cultural institutions (an important distinction). But there is a certain homogeneity in the stated aspirations of the cultural sector as it emerges from the crisis: develop deeper relationships with the immediate community and become an indispensable social hub; place social and racial justice at the heart of one’s mission and values; develop a digital footprint, and scour the world for a viable underpinning business model. Is this homogeneity of response a good thing? If so, have we any clearer idea now of how to do these things than we did a year ago?

GCDN Conversations: Series 5

This new series focuses on exploring our new landscape with a longer-term lens than we have until now – it also give us an opportunity to highlight some of the new members who joined the network since the Singapore 2019 convening.

GCDN Roundtable: Hybrid Cultural Programme Models – 8 and 10 December 2020

These two GCDN Roundtables were recorded but not available to the public. However, a written summary captures the key points of these two roundtable sessions. Please contact us if you are a GCDN member and would like to watch the recordings.

Summary & notes here.

GCDN Panel at WRLDCTY Festival: All Change? Cultural in a New Context – 23 October 2020


– Christos Carras, Executive Director, Onassis Cultural Centre Athens
– Gus Casely-Hayford, Director, V&A East
– Vilma J. Jukurte, Director, Alserkal Avenue
– Adrian Ellis, Director, AEA Consulting; Chair, Global Cultural Districts Network (GCDN) – moderator

The most recent chapter of globalization, driven by 30 years of deregulation and relentless advances in technology, has tended to homogenize the world’s cities. As cities compete in open economies for mobile capital, knowledge workers and high-end tourists they have sought to attract these assets and resources by standing out as brands with distinctive identities. Culture and art have been vital in that fight, but are they resilient enough to find a meaningful and relevant role in the evolving political economy of cities?


GCDN Conversations: Rehabilitation, preservation, and innovation – 17 November 2020


– Sherry Dobbin, Chair, Urban Art Forum (ULI-UAF) – London, UK
– Brian Green, Developer, Victoria Yards – Johannesburg, South Africa
– Asima Jansveld, Vice President, High Line Network – New York City, USA
– Fabrice Berthereaux, Directeur Général Adjoint, SAMOA/Île de Nantes – Nantes, France
– Lucie Renou, Chargée de Mission Développement International, SAMOA/Quartier de la Création – Nantes, France
– Kiley Arroyo, Executive Director, Cultural Strategies Council – moderator

Cultural infrastructure is a form of public good and, as such, generates value that can be captured in various ways like other public goods Just as new physical infrastructure like a bridge or road spurs unique opportunities for developing the surrounding areas, so too can investments in cultural buildings. But how are those benefits captured and by whom and how can we ensure the protection of core characteristics of a place when ‘success’ as defined by many stakeholders inevitably involves increases in land values that can erode core aspects of that identity? This dilemma inspired the GCDN 2020 research report by Kiley Arroyo: Capturing Value and Preserving Identity. This session presents some of the report’s findings and contextualize tools for ‘value capture’ with a panel of leaders involved in urban regeneration projects worldwide.

Summary & notes here.

GCDN Conversations: Series 4

Themed ‘Cultural Districts in Turbulent Times’, the fourth GCDN Conversations series examined the critical questions, trends and challenges to inform the long-view at this pivotal moment for the leadership of districts.


– Lizzie Araujo, Cultural Affairs Manager, Dpt of Art, Culture + Tourism, City of Providence
– Vilma Jukurte, Director, Alserkal
– Andrea Dempster Chung, CoFounder and Executive Director, Kingston Creative – moderator

The discussion framed the major questions, challenges and opportunities which need to be considered when thinking about the engagement and representation of different stakeholders in the current moment.

Summary & notes here.


– Manal Ataya, Director General, Sharjah Museums Authority
– Justine Simons OBE, Deputy London Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries, Greater London Authority; Chair, World Cities Culture Forum
– Kim Spence, Director, Kingston Creative; Researcher, Southampton Solent University
– Adrian Ellis, Director, AEA Consulting; Chair, GCDN – facilitator

The discussion framed the major questions and trends which need to be considered for the future survival and success of cultural districts.

Summary & notes here.

GCDN Conversations: Series 3

Over 60 members and external participants joined our third series of GCDN conversations to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on cultural districts. We are happy to share video recordings of these three sessions with the network.

Written summary & notes here – individual recordings below.


– Genevieve Cimon, Director of Music Education at Canada’s National Arts Centre
– Gabriella Gomez-Mont, Founder and Director of Experimentalista; Founder and Former Director of Laboratorio para la Ciudad
– Nina Simon, Spacemaker & CEO, OF/BY/FOR ALL,
– Donald Hyslop, Head of Community Partnerships, Tate Modern, London – facilitator

The discussion covers what new opportunities have emerged through crisis to strengthen communities through arts and culture and how they relate to districts.

It includes:
– How to listen to and be relevant to your communities
– Whether this is a time to expand or think differently about your community
– Examples of partnerships between artists /cultural orgs and other parts of the city
– What hierarchies and bureaucracies can be left behind
– How this can be done using digital tools in an inclusive way

GCDN Conversations: RE-OPENING REALITIES – 26 May 2020

– David Baile, CEO, ISPA, New York
– Kennie Ting, Director, Asian Civilisation Museum, Singapore
– Lynn Yau, CEO, The Absolutely Fabulous Theatre Connection, Hong Kong
– Adrian Ellis, Director, AEA Consulting; Chair, GCDN (facilitator)

The discussion covers practical and strategic considerations for reopening districts through the crisis.

It includes:
– Advice on re-opening mechanics, practicalities and assumptions;
– Understanding the post-Covidian operating environment and how it is different;
– What are the opportunities to make changes to existing models

GCDN Conversations: RE-OPENING STRATEGIES – 21 May 2020

– Nicole Gordon, CEO, Better Bankside, London
– Yi-Ruu Liu, General and Artistic Director of National Theatre and Concert Hall, Taipei
– Duncan Pescod, CEO, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, Hong Kong
– Beau Vigushin, Executive Director, Customer Experience, Art Centre Melbourne
– Beatrice Pembroke, Director GCDN – facilitator

The discussion covers practical and strategic considerations for reopening districts through the Covid-19 crisis.

It includes:
– Internal organisational strategy
– Security and logistics for resilience
– Understanding audience appetite and anticipating their concerns
– Different considerations for performing arts, gallery/museum spaces, outside/public space
– Opportunities for overdue change

GCDN Conversations: Series 1 and 2 – Notes & Summaries

GCDN Conversations series 1 and 2 were recorded but not available to the public. However, the written summaries below capture the key points of all the sessions in these two series. Please contact us if you are a GCDN member and would like to watch the recordings.

Series 1: March 25 – April 2, 2020
Series 2: April 16-23, 2020

How does it work?

Sessions last 75min. Please arrive 5 mins in advance to ensure you’re connected and ready to go.

We recommend viewing with headphones and encourage you to make good use of the chat function to ask questions, comment on what is being said, network with each other, share links and information, and for any other relevant purpose.

These are conversations between peers and we ask you to keep your webcam turned on for the duration of the sessions, as this creates a safer and more comfortable space for everyone.

We also ask that you kindly remain muted when not speaking to avoid accidental disruptions and background noise.

Please note that all sessions will be recorded and published online on the GCDN website.

Although these sessions are curated principally for GCDN members we will invite external experts as well. Ultimately participants will shape the outcome of these conversations – so come prepared to contribute!

We work hard to make sure this is easy and enjoyable for everyone, but technology is not always kind. Questions/feedback? Don’t hesitate to let us know how we can make this experience better.