“Arts and culture can support positive change. Cultural institutions, artists, audiences, and other stakeholders can come together at the local level to build more sustainable projects and models,” said Dejan Crnek, Deputy Mayor at the Ljubljana and Chair of the Eurocities Culture Forum while introducing the five new signatories of the Eurocities Lille Call to Action.
The call is a political commitment from mayors to develop cultural policies and events that are more sustainable and inclusive.
Initiated by the municipality of Lille last year and enhanced by other Eurocities member cities through the task force on sustainable culture, the call to action was launched last June at the Brussels Urban Summit. It now boasts 41 signatories.
“I am pleased and proud that we are adding our signature to this important pledge,” said Councillor Saima Suleman, Cabinet Member for Digital, Culture, Heritage and Tourism in Birmingham, echoing the sentiment of colleagues from Leeds, Bristol, Cologne and Strasbourg, all co-signatory cities. “This call to action will help one of the city’s major sectors to focus on how they need to play their part,” added Councillor Majid Mahmood, Cabinet Member for Environment in Birmingham.
Birmingham declared a climate emergency in 2019 and is committed to reaching net zero-carbon emissions by 2030 while ensuring a just transition. “That means every sector needs to step up,” concluded Councillor Mahmood.
Leeds and Cologne have set similar targets. Stefan Charles, Deputy Mayor for Fine Arts and Culture in Cologne, shared that his city is cooperating with 18 local cultural institutions on an intensive programme for climate action. Within the initiatives, Cologne is working towards zero emissions cultural production.
Watch the recording of the ceremony here
Learning from each other
When signing, Eleanor Thomson, Councillor in charge of Museums and Galleries in Leeds, declared that the call to action “helps cement our commitment. Crises can lead us to opportunities.” For Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor responsible for Finance, Governance and Performance in Bristol, opportunities mean “learning best practices from other cities,” and is a way to cement the existing work Bristol is doing on cultural sustainability and inclusiveness.
André Sobczak, Secretary General at Eurocities, echoed those sentiments: “This call to action is not just about signing a paper; it’s about changing things and sharing experiences,” “By sharing examples and making sense of them, we can encourage a learning process.”
“Strasbourg is joining a network of political players enabling it to improve its public policies and professional practices while sharing its expertise and know-how,” declared Salem Drici, Councillor for Books and Reading policies in Strasbourg. “With this signature, Strasbourg is committed to giving the global challenge of the ecological transition in the cultural sector a local and international resonance.”
How can the EU help?
“The Eurocities Lille Call to Action is an important step to make sure that culture will become more sustainable and inclusive all over Europe,” Sobczak remarked.
The European Union is adding sustainability criteria in many project selections; for example, both new Eurocities projects on culture and heritage, the European Heritage Hub and Living Spaces have a strong sustainability dimension.
Therefore, the Eurocities Lille Call to Action is timely and is met with increasing interest. “We are closely working with the European Commission to get some external funding to deliver more support to the signatories of the call to action,” added Sobczak. “Additional funding will help to make it a long-standing initiative that will change our cities.”
In the meantime, Eurocities will highlight the crucial role that culture can play in creating more sustainable and inclusive cities; the effort will be part of the network’s campaign for the 2024 European elections.
Crnek invited cities interested in transforming their cultural policies and events to join the movement and sign the call to action.
Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Cologne and Strasbourg signed the Eurocities Lille Call to Action in Birmingham during the Eurocities Culture Forum 2023. Cities interested in signing can do so online or at future Eurocities events.