Counsellor for Cultural Affairs Maija Lummepuro from Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture tells in our interview about her experiences as the co-chair of the Joint Working Group for Culture.
I have worked in the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture since 2003. Since then, a two or three years’ gap excluded, I have also participated in Barents cooperation in the field of culture. When I started, the Working Group on Culture was under the Barents Regional Council. During the previous Finnish chairmanship of the BEAC, it was transformed into a Joint Working Group in order to make the important work done on the regions more visible on the ministerial level, too, and to enhance the development of the cultural and international sectors.
I have been the co-chair of the JWG on culture since the middle of October 2013. It is my first time as the chair of the Working Group, and it has been a really positive experience. The group has been very active and compact, the members have considered it important to attend the meetings and have given me plenty of feedback on my work. The composition of the Working Group has also changed somewhat, and it is really nice to have both old and new faces there. The sector is lively and our work is inspiring and rewarding.
At the beginning of 2014 we updated the mandate for the group and the strategy for cultural cooperation in the Barents region. Both of them are available on the BEAC website. The mandate lists the objectives and tasks of the JWG, whereas the strategy includes the most essential challenges and opportunities in the region, the vision and the mission for the cultural cooperation as well as some thematic objectives for the coming years, e.g. cultural diversity, multicultural dialogue and new cultural meeting places. Both the mandate and the strategy have now the same term as the overall strategy of the Barents cooperation, so they will from now on be updated in the same rhythm.
As the chair, I have – as was the goal of the Finnish chairmanship – striven to deepen the collaboration with other actors working in the same field. The object has been to enhance the cooperation and chart shared interests. For example, we organized a common meeting with the Council of the Baltic Sea States Senior Officials Group on Culture and the Northern Dimension Partnership on Culture Steering Committee. We have for years talked about how to get the regional cooperation more cohesive, and it is great we have now made progress on that.
New projects: Barents Culture Prize and Incubator for Culture Initiatives
Usually the Barents JWG on Culture gathers twice a year, though in 2014 we had three meetings. The group consists of representatives of all four BEAC countries and representatives of all the member regions as well. In the meetings, in addition to the issues on the agenda, every member region also tells the current news of their culture sector. This helps other attendants to get fresh ideas they can try to realize also in their regions as well as to learn about events the artists in their region might be interested to attend.
The first meeting of 2015 took place in Rovaniemi in May. Also the Barents Ambassador of the chair country Finland, Ms. Marja-Leena Vuorenpää and the head of the International Barents Secretariat, Mr. Tomas Hallberg, took part in the meeting. Especially the attendance of Mr. Hallberg was very valuable, as now we in the Culture Working Group have a better understanding about the tasks of the Secretariat and are more able to suggest different ways of cooperation and initiatives.
In addition to improving the cooperation with the secretariat we have during this year launched two new projects. First of them is culture awards for Barents Region. The idea has been long in discussion, but now we in the JWG have reached a consensus what the award should be like. We would like the award to be more like a grant that would spur artists or other cultural actors at the early stage of their careers, rather than a reward of past accomplishments.
The second project is an incubator for cultural initiatives in the Barents Region. Its kick-off was in Rovaniemi at the same time we had our meeting there. The kick-off was a success: there were creative artists from different fields and from all the regions among the participants. We hope that the incubator will help to develop larger entities of cultural initiatives that could in the future apply for larger grants from the cross-border cooperation programs and other sources of funding. The goal is to find ideas of the kind that might in the future provide subsistence for the artists and other cultural actors in the Barents region.
The last meeting of the JWG group during my co-chairmanship takes place in Arkhangelsk in October, 13-14, so my time as the chair of the group is almost over. I am really content with what we have accomplished during these two years.
Joint Working Group for Culture
Interview by Ilkka Tiensuu