REPORT

Subject: Easy Towns Kick Off meeting
Date: 28-29 November 2018

Tuesday, 27 November

On Tuesday, 27 November, most delegations arrive in the Porziuncola Retreat House in Bahar ic-Caghaq. All enjoy a fine welcome dinner, while being entertained by students from the Malta School for Drama and Dance.

Wednesday, 28 November

On Wednesday, November 28, the conference is officially launched by the local organiser and the project co-ordinator.
Victor Galea presents the programme of the conference and a Maltese goody bag is handed out.
Bernadette De Cat introduces the Easy towns theme, European Accessible Sustainable Young towns.
Three topics will be dealt with: youth policy, integration and cultural heritage.
Attending partners bring forward their presentations.

Vicenza, Italy
Vicenza shows a film that beautifully depicts their cultural heritage, being a Unesco heritage site since 1994.
Vicenza offers young people 14 high schools, 3 youth centers, 1 cultural center, 1 youth information center and a university. The youth information center is a member of Eurodesk Italy and Europe direct Venezia. Space apps and Social day are presented as good practices. Social day involves young people in social work that benefits their community in a two symbolic days. The initiative was born in Europe in the seventies, and started in Italy in 2006. Website: www.socialday.org
The nasa space apps challenge is an international 48 hours hackathon in cities around the world. In Vicenza, the municipality offers an unusual and historical location, the Basillica Palladiana for this special event. Website: https://2018.spaceappschallenge.org/

Niepolomice, Poland
Niepolomice conducted a survey on the quality of live. 85,5% is satisfied with the quality of life, 71% of the people trust the government, 95,7% of the people are satisfied about the access to public services. The town population is growing very fast, in the years 1995-2015 there has been a 57,8% increase. The growing gap between new residents and people who have been living there a long time cause a need for projects. The three pillars of cultural heritage are monuments (royal castle, parish church Benedictine convent), institutions (museum, center of phonography, library) and the people (ie NGO’s, community houses). Trends and challenges are population, integrated transport, political stability, and development, not growth.

Slovakia, Banska Bystrica
The university has 7.000 students, 6 faculties: economy, law, philosophy, political sciences, natural sciences and pedagogical sciences. The delegation presents their natural sciences faculty, environmental management department
They present a best practice of non-formal learning: ‘empowering youths towards a sustainable future’.

Pula, Croatia
Pula is bilingual: both Croatian and Italian. A lot of NGO’s are active to care about minority cultures. Cultural heritage is very important. The Roman arena is used for cultural events, such as gladiator re-enactment, but also pop concerts. The ship yard is the new modern symbol of the town. A ‘festival of light’ makes the link from ancient architecture into modern life.

Rijeka, Croatia
Rijeka will be the first Croatian city to carry the title of cultural capital in 2020.
Rijeka was always a port of diversity. In the last 100 years, Rijeka has been under 6 different regimes, this has left a mark on the city. The programme has 4 segments: a cultural and artistic programme, a participation and capacity building programme. ‘Classroom’ is an educational project, aimed at cultural workers and the local public. There is also a citizen council, that can decide on funding local cultural programmes that are proposed by local groups. Aims are empowerment and ownership of the city. ‘27 neighbourhoods’ are 27 local communities that presented their local challenges, issues that they want to change by cultural initiatives, by increasing cultural production, raising cultural participation. Each neighbourhood will find a EU-member state to work together with.

Pforzheim, Germany
Pforzheim was completely rebuilt after the Second World War. The city is now known for its jewellery and watchmaking industries.
Jewellery reveals a deeper understanding of why humans do and feel what they do. In this way, it helps to create cultural identities. Museums help to raise consciousness about what cultures have in common. The school project teaches children how technics can change cultures.
In the city center, there are 5 youth centers, for non-formal education, on a voluntarily basis. Cultural activities, sports, arts, are used as instruments to get a connection, in order to get a good relation to help the kids onto adulthood. In some neighbourhoods, up to 75% of youngsters are from a different country. Culture can be used as a common language to teach new things.

Sentjur, Slovenia
5 active youth organisations (2 scouts, student, farmers, youth center). The youth center is partly funded by the municipality of Sentjur.
Many projects are carried out. With ‘your action matters’: a game was developed to learn young people to know the city. ‘Grab a chance and make a change’ was aimed at formulating official strategies. Games are used to raise awareness about natural and cultural heritage. ‘I’m running on creativity’ was another project.

Heist-op-den-Berg, Belgium
In Heist-op-den-Berg, the youth council recently changed its way of working: from an official advisory organ to a more informal ‘Heist-on-the-hill Crew’. This less formal and less binding way of working is more attractive to young people. The town organises a lot of after school activities, to give children a useful leisure time. Best practices include Babbelberg (literally: chatter mountain), which brings together a group of Dutch-speaking volunteers and people with a migrant background who want to learn Dutch, Hestival, a free festival by and for young people, and the recent purchase of castle ‘Ter Laeken’, of which the park is now open to the local community.

In the afternoon, the delegates visit Valetta, cultural capital of Eurpe:
o St Elmo and War museum
o Palace armoury and state rooms
o Valetta animated and guided tour, via St John’s Co-cathedral, Royal Opera House, Castile Square, Upper Barrakka Gardens

Evening: buffet dinner

Thursday, 29 November

Victor Galea welcomes the audience.

Bernadette De Cat situates the Easy Towns project.

Stephen Cachia, director of general education, draws the importance of visual and performing arts to create an inclusive education system.

Vincent Caruana, administrator of the visual and performing arts education, introduces the panel and the Mikiel Anton Vassalli College comprising visual & performing arts, music, art, drama & dance.

Robert Zahra briefly depicts the school of art. It was founded in 1935. From the beginning, the aim was to prepare students for a profession in visual arts, but also to be open to the community. There are two tracks: level 1 to level 5 for students who want to become professional artists, the other one open to everyone. 72 % are adults, of which a good part are 60 or even 80 plus. Two students give a testimony about how they experience their courses there.

Alan Fenech gives a brief overview of the school of drama and dance and how they integrate people with different backgrounds, learning abilities,… to get the best out of everyone. For instance, one of the actors we saw yesterday, has a stuttering problem, but arts made him overcome it. Youngest children are 5 years old, oldest people are 78. Twenty different nationalities are represented amongst the students. There are some 650 students. Three steps are used: 1)recognise the artistic talent in each individual, 2) enhance with proper and effective training, 3)use the enhanced artistic talent as a bridge for inclusion of diverse individuals. It is in fact more than a bridge, it is a way of absorption: not underlining differences, but absorbing it. There is also focus on the communication of ideas and emotions through language, free expression and movement in real and imaginary contexts. Instruments: theatre as a tool for inclusion and diversity with 4 categories: 1)play as universal expression: through playing, you get a new chance of learning by playing; 2)drama can be a motivating impulse for people with learning difficulties, by increasing self esteem, amongst others, 3) empirical evidence shows that actor training has a remarkable impact on learning of various groups in prisons, schools, youth shelters, aso; 4) drama can be used as a tool for empowerment. Mission statement: ‘we aim to make theatre a rehearsal for life’.

Godfrey Mifsud presents a clarinet ensemble. The music school was established in 1975, and now organises 41 different courses, with 750 students aged from age 5 to diploma level. Courses are free of charge. The key word is teamwork, on two levels: between tutors, but also helping students to develop social skills. They work together with other actors in the artistic fields. The main purpose is to prepare students for a career as a professional musician, on the other side open classes which work together with band clubs. Legato, a musical term that is used when individual notes have to be tied together, is also a motto for the music school, as it links the music school to the wider society. The presentation is ended by an impressive piece of klezmer music.

Francois Mifsud of the department for inclusion and access to learning of the University of Malta concludes the first part with his keynote speech on ‘Cultural heritage and its contribution to create inclusive societies’.
What is education? It is always an encounter between the self and the other/newness. But it can also lead to aggression, fear, one needs the experience of wonder in order to learn from this encounter. Without wonder, there is no exploration. Inclusion from a pedagogical part of view, cannot be seen as a form of charity. Inclusion needs to be the heart of every education. Through inclusion, the encounter between the self and the other becomes pedagogical.
But what is inclusion? Here, the notion of hospitality comes in. In Maltese, the word for hospitality ‘ejja ghoqod’ literally translates ‘come and stay’. There are two elements: visitation (I come and go) and stability (I leave something behind). What is hospitality for the Maltese? It is NOT entertaining people, which is just a charade, it’s being willing to say ‘come in – as we live’. There is now a tension rising from the shift from the entertainment reality (hotels, creating a perfect house) to a hospitality reality (come and stay, share our good things, but also the bad things, such as the traffic, the pollution,…). Quote by Derrida: ’to be hospitable is to let oneself be overtaken, to be ready to not be ready, to be surprised… where one is not ready to receive – not only not yet ready but not ready, unprepared in a mode that is not even that of the “not yet”’. The key for educators is ‘complexification’: teach students that things are complex, and that is okay that things are complex. This is a key to deal with multiculturalism.

Question time: In urbanisation times, shouldn’t art come out of the theatres and opera houses and go to where the people live? Without evolution, art becomes an archive. There might be a political agenda to keep art ‘elite’

Coffee break

Alex Tortell, head of integration unit at the ministry for EU affairs, introduces the panel and the second panel discussion on ‘how cultural heritage education and initiatives are contributing in creating an inclusive society’.
He sees several challenges in immigration policies: inequality between men and women risks to be reintroduced, communities live isolated from each other, too little participation from migrants in cultural events and everyday life. The integration office just opened its doors two days ago.

Simone Inguanez from the arts council of Malta explains their focus points: research, education and training, communities, diversity and funding. Diversity is crucial to creativity. Funding is aimed at inclusion. In recent years, there has been a quantum shift from accessibility to active participation, from offer to demand. The council has different programmes to stimulate creativity. Some videos of the sponsored projects are shown, e.g. photography project for refugees, Opening doors association which made a dance production with inclusion disabled people, making books accessible for children with reading disabilities through recordings, creativity as a therapeutic means, film to raise awareness on eating disorders, ‘explore-develop-create’, ‘the dramatic bodymind’, ‘inte-great’, and so on.

Godwin Vella fom Heritage Malta, the national agency responsible for monuments and cultural heritage sites, talks about Malta’s cultural identity.
Culture is often a way to distinguish between ‘us’ and ‘them’. If we scratch the surface of what we call national Maltese identity, it is in reality very eclectic, an accumulation of various cultures, civilisations, that have left their imprint on our civilisation for centuries. Human presence has been on the islands for 7.000 years, there is a tremendous amount of cultural heritage. The past 3.000 years, Malta and Gozo were all the time part of a bigger dominating civilisation. Cultural heritage is therefore a good opportunity to link with people from different cultures. In the Maltese law it is said that cultural heritage should be accessible to others. The agency always tries to reach different audiences – existing and potential. Often they work together with schools. All children going to school in Malta from 5 to 16, regardless of nationality, can visit all cultural heritage, free of charge. The crucial element is that heritage belongs to all, and it is our responsibility is to take care of it and make sure it is accessible to all.

Jane Buhagiar from the migrant learner’s unit from the ministry for education and employment talks about her work. The united was started up 4 years ago, now 15 persons work there. The aim of the European year of cultural heritage is to encourage more people to discover and engage Europe’s cultural heritage, and to reinforce a sense of belonging.
Over recent years, the number of migrants in Maltese schools has increased drastically. In 2017, 10% of schools’ population was non-Maltese, though the percentage differs a lot from one school to another. This year, 120 nationalities are represented in schools. The unit was set up to focus on 1)the acquisition of language competence in English and Maltese which is considered as a first step towards providing access to mainstream education, 2) to cater for the linguistic and overall needs of the children, 3) to keep in mind the well-being of the child, 4) to include the student’s family. The induction programme for children offers an age-appropriate educational trajectory, housed physically within the same premises, aimed at moving towards mainstream education. Community liaison staff helps schools and parents to understand each other. In the learning process, the curriculum must be two-way: cultures will inevitably influence each other, on a linguistic, social, ideological level. Llapsi is a co-funded project in which language learning and parental support for integration are stimulated, for instance via making parents community liaison offers, via ‘making friends club’, and so on.

Question time: Malta nowadays witnesses a large wave of immigration, possibly because of the economic boom. We should think about what challenges will rise once the good times are finished, and what it means to be Maltese.

Networking lunch

Afternoon programme:

Visit to the Attard Local Council. Mr Ralph Cassar, Local Councillor presents a showcase of an inclusive local council through heritage and embellishment projects.

Later in the afternoon, the delegations were invited at the President Palace. After a walk through the wonderful San Anton Gardens, the group joined Dr Frank Fabri, the Permanent Secretary within the Ministry for Education & Employment, for a courtesy visit to HE Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of the Republic of Malta.
To conclude the afternoon, the group took a cultural tour to Mdina, the silent city.

Once back in Bahar ic-Caghaq, final discussions were held and the next meeting was being prepared. The delegation of Rijeka will send out a first draft programme and possible dates before the Christmas holidays. Furthermore, the use of Instagram and Facebook instead of blogs was discussed.

During the BBQ Dinner in the Porziuncola residence, guests could enjoy the concert by the Malta Police Force band and their guests.

Friday, 30 November

After breakfast, delegations said ‘goodbye’ and more importantly: ‘see you next time!’




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