During the 13th and the 15th of September 2023, 20 of our member cities met in Belfast for the 10th conference of the network.

Discussions were centred around the relation between Culture and the Sustainable Development Goals. How can we link the two in our cities? What is the right balance between standardisation and customisation when it comes to measuring culture’s contribution to the SDGs? Should culture become an 18th SDG in the new agenda or should be keep it transversal?

Cristina Farinha, renowned freelance policy expert, lecturer, and researcher specialising in heritage, culture, and the creative industries sector, opened the conference with a keynote speech on how to work with the SDGs to make local stakeholders put more skin in the game of culture. The UK Polyloop team then took us through an exercise on how digital tools can be used for this purpose. The conference agenda included European Capital of Culture Therapy Sessions, during which our bidding, our implementing and our legacy cities came together to share their questions, but also their answers.

In the network development sessions we planned our next conferences, our soon to start mobility programme and our future thematic working groups where we will be tackling joint interests. Special attention was dedicated to the SDG tool for culture: after this last year of planning it, starting with November we will be designing it on the ground, in real local contexts, with ten of our member cities.

We were happy to meet the Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast and the City Council team in charge of culture and of the Belfast Year of Culture in 2024: great projects ahead, Belfast is surely a place to visit again next year! Very inspiring visits and encounters with the people behind the Belfast Stories, the Banana Block and the other Portview regeneration project participants. Belfast is a great city to explore, with a number of mural artworks which is probably surpassed only by the number of amazing pubs in town.

Many thanks to the Belfast team who made this conference possible. It was a great way to start the autumn season together. Next stop: Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, November 22-24.