Our director David Boyd and development worker Matt Vernon, along with Beat Carnival board member and Culture Night mastermind, Adam Turkington, recently travelled to the 21st annual meeting of the Banlieues d’Europe network in Saint-Denis (a large suburb of Paris).
The objective of these meetings is to create a space for reflection, debate and exchange between young European artists, cultural activists, architects, social workers and youth workers, who have created innovative, participative, artistic and cultural projects in disadvantaged European neighbourhoods.
With the support from the European programme “Youth in Action”, as part of the UrbART project, this meeting involved seven European partners as well as local partners committed to issues such as: social inclusion of young people through artistic and cultural projects; participation of young people in co-building the city and public spaces; contemporary forms of youth commitment in community life.
We heard some interesting presentations in regards the European Youth Captial in Cluj-Napoca ( http://www.cluj2015.eu ) , Romania and about a fantastic community project in Madrid, Spain, called “El Campo de Cebada” ( http://www.publicspace.org/en/works/g362-el-campo-de-cebada ) where local residents have succesfully reclaimed and are artistically developing some public land for their community.
David and Adam were invited to present a workshop in relation to “Street arts positively connecting young people to urban space – in ways that re-imagine and help to re-build the city as a welcoming and creative place”. It was one of the most popular workshops, with over 50 people coming to take part. There was a great interest in the arts work carried out in Northern Ireland by the Beat over the past 20 years and also in the recent success of Culture Night, with many people interested in making contacts and coming to visit Belfast.
We were very lucky to visit 3 different arts spaces/collectives in the Saint-Denis area. Cafe Culturel, where we experienced some of the Urban Arts programmes they run as well as being treated to a South African feast!
We also visited the HUGE Le 6B ( http://www.le6b.fr ), which is an entire 6 storey commercial tower block, converted into artist studios and several gallery spaces with a substantial outdoor space for events. We then ventured across the river to another converted factory space called La Briche. This amazing creative space was developed by a loose community of artists check out the website here: https://bricheforaine.wordpress.com.
After the conference we even managed to sneak in a wee visit to the Eiffel Tower for a gawp at some serious engineering!
We were very well looked after by the conference organisers and enjoyed making new connections with our european counterparts.