Between November 22-24, 2023, we were hosted by the beautiful city of Leeuwarden, former European Capital of Culture in 2018 and keeper of an inspiring legacy programme, for the 11th Culture Next Conference. 

Our encounter had two topics in mind: understanding the role of an ECoC programme within the city and region of implementation, and exploring the link between community and participation through the Mienskip concept: instinctive action-driven communities, brought together by genuine solidarity, in a bottom-up structure and dynamic. 

We started early with the SDG Thing – a framework for pilot cities and Culture Next board members to implement Polyloop, a tool designed for impact monitoring and evaluation that could be used to measure culture’s impact on sustainable development. 

The agenda continued with keynote speeches from Vanessa Timmer of OneEarth and Carmen van Bruggen of the University of Groningen, thematic working groups on legacy programmes, youth engagement in culture and funding culture, a Culture Next presentation for the 25 cities and the local cultural sector present, and city tours by day and by night.

We learned more about the Mienskip method, a community approach that the Arcadia team – who so warmly hosted the conference – uses in their practices, met with local actors and talked about the projects they are currently developing, and dove into work sessions on how to organize and finance a legacy-program.

Around the city, we traced Leeuwarden’s ECoC legacy, an emotional example being the archive of personal messages left by the citizens for Hein de Graaf’s artwork: DNA Leeuwarden – a wall of 16.000 test tubes that look like tiny time capsules for the future. 

Following the now traditional structure, day 2 was entirely dedicated to members of the Culture Next network. Internal workshops, ECoC therapy sessions, and conversations on the future of Culture Next took shape, giving us the chance to share our common struggles, wishes, and plans, and to set a handful of objectives for 2024. Else Christensen-Redžepovićm, a member of the ECoC panel, talked about ECoC legacies and how they respond to the long-term European vision of local development through culture and creativity. 

The day ended with the opening of Explore the North, a festival that was part of Leeuwarden’s ECoC programme back in 2018 and that still happens and grows with every edition. 

We are grateful to end 2023 with such a great encounter, and we thank Arcadia and everyone involved in organizing the event for welcoming us open-heartedly! The aftermovie can give you a more vivid glimpse of the 11th Culture Next Conference: 

This event was co-funded by the European Union through the Creative Europe Program.