CCL Policy Lab: Lucy from JB reports

Leeuwarden, both a city and municipality, is situated in Friesland in the Netherlands; and alongside Friesland, won the title of European Capital of Culture 2018 (ECOC).

Visibly celebrating its accolade of European Capital of Culture, it felt like the perfect place to host the Creative Climate Leadership (CCL) Policy Lab as part of our Creative Europe co-funded CCL programme.

CCL Policy Lab Marie Le Sourd

Running from the 3rd to 4th July, the CCL Policy Lab aimed to convene cultural leaders and city influencers to discuss art and culture’s response to climate and the environment, and how this work could best be supported, amplified, and catalysed.

The Policy Lab was led by our CCL partner On The Move and supported by JB. We co-facilitated the day, presenting a focused workshop on transformative policy change. This practical session made the case for knitting together culture and environment and translating this combined agenda into civic policy, investment and practice.

We were joined by representatives of ECOC’s past, present and future – including Galway 2020, Eleusis 2021 and the short-listed Debrecem 2023. Luckily for us, Jelle Burggraaff (Head of European Affairs) and Oeds Westerhof (Director, Legacy and Network) had agreed to take a day out of their busy schedules to give us a deeper account of ‘Leeuwarden-Fryslân 2018’ – its overall vision, and the environmental objectives forming part of that. The central theme in Leeuwarden-Friesland’s bid book was Iepen Mienskip (open community) – working towards a better world from the bottom-up and in an open connection with it. [1] With clear implications for sustainability, this theme was taken up explicitly in the programme ‘Fossil-free Friesland’ which aimed to make visible the various low-carbon creative practices occurring across Friesland.

CCL Policy Lab Marie Le Sourd

In addition, we had guest speakers representing a broad range of the creative sector including: Sjoerd Bootsma from Welcome to the Village music festival, Kees Lesuis from Oerol cultural festival, Marie Fol from TransArtists, and Loïc Fel from COAL, the coalition for art and sustainable development. We learnt about Oerol’s inspired creative programming, raising awareness on such issues as sea-level rise; Welcome to the Village’s ambitions and research to go “circular” in its approach to resource management; TransArtists partnership and contribution to the European Green Art Lab Alliance; and COAL’s leadership and mobilization of artists on social and environmental issues – from the curation of contemporary art exhibitions to its annual award. Each expert presented their work and discussed their own opportunities and challenges for bridging arts and culture and environmental sustainability, before we opened up to group debate.

CCL Policy Lab Marie Le Sourd

It was an invaluable opportunity to convene so many city and cultural representatives and think critically about how cultural policy, strategy and programmes contribute to action on the environment through engendering ethical leadership, good operational practice, eco-aesthetics and civic engagement.

But what next? We know that cities are at the forefront of environmental change, experiencing a new swathe of challenges from maintaining infrastructure and public services, to health risks and uneven demographics. We know that we need new forms of leadership and new value frameworks that embrace diversity, cooperation, creativity, renewal, equality and self-determination.

This is why culture is so invaluable. In all its diversity of expression, it is the most democratic way to bring about change – it belongs to everyone and it permeates everything we do. The cultural life of cities connects citizens to one another, and to their values, offering a critical platform to inspire and lead public engagement on climate and the environment.  Between real democracy, cultural diversity and sustainability there is a natural link.

But we need to act and interrogate our opportunities for agency, advocacy and alignment. One discussion topic posed as a ‘next step’ was how the European Capital of Culture programme can support and encourage environmental objectives. There are clear examples of historic good practice and an appetite from future ECOC holders to build on this and stretch ambition. What resources could be developed to support and develop this enthusiasm so that environment is embedded both aesthetically and operationally in all bid books, ensuing programmes and legacy? This strikes us as a very exciting opportunity, capitalising on the reach and value of the ECOC programme and demonstrating the power of arts to galvanise transformative change.



Images: Marie Le Sourd

Creative Climate Leadership Co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union

Creative Climate Leadership is co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.

The project is coordinated by Julie’s Bicycle (UK). Project partners are: PiNA (Slovenia), On the Move (Belgium), COAL (France), Ars Baltica (Germany), Krug (Montenegro), and EXIT Foundation (Serbia). For more information, visit


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