Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Brussels day 2

Today we moved from the threadbare-friendly surroundings of La Maison des Cultures and into the European Commission's Albert Borschette conference centre, complete with numerous translators in booths relaying our every word. In this more formal space, we have the chance to dialogue with people from the Commission itself - Vladimir Sucha, who is the Director of Culture and Media, and Giulia Amaducci, who works in immigration and integration. She's Italian, and speaks English at Italian speed and in Italian tunes, which made me wish she could be translated into English.

Vladimir had some very heartening things to say. In particular, he talked about some theatre he had seen in his native Slovakia, which engaged with the Roma community, and with the huge local prejudice against them. "Twenty minutes of theatre", he said, "has a life-long impact. This is the way to change perceptions profoundly and to involve people actively in intercultural dialogue." I wrote it down so that I can quote it everywhere!

I was also very impressed by a man called Ahmed Ahkim, who runs an organisation for Roma and traveller people in Belgium. Ahmed talked about the importance of imagination in overcoming prejudice: when people look at a traveller, they imagine them to be something. We need engineers of the imagination to suggest other possibilities. "In order to establish cultural dialogue you have to dream - and artists are the professional dreamers." I wrote this one down because it's true.

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