On Tuesday 18th October 2016, I attended a breakfast event organised by the Creative Industries Federation at Battersea Power Station. The occasion gathered over 20 participants from different cultural organisations discussing the connections between culture and international relations in a domestic and global setting.
An initial focus for the discussion was provided by Tom Fletcher, previously British Ambassador to Lebanon and foreign policy advisor to three prime ministers (2007-11), who shared his insights on the business of diplomacy nowadays and how countries can use culture to build and project their brand. Tom published earlier this year a book entitled ‘Naked Diplomacy: Power and Statecraft in the Digital Age’. He has also recently led a review of British diplomacy for the UK Foreign Office and is currently working on a report on the future of the United Nations for the next UN Secretary General.
Tom put forward the idea that the extraordinary times in which we live have disrupted the business of diplomacy and that diplomacy is too important to be left to diplomats. I could not agree more: increasingly national governments find it difficult to create the impact they are aiming for in a complex and dynamic environment where they operate alongside other international actors, such as corporations, NGOs, individuals and other levels of governance (i.e. international, regional, local). Tom also emphasised the need for governments to work in coalitions, with embassies reverting to their original mission of matchmaking partners. He equally stressed the importance of winning arguments of tolerance, both domestically and internationally. A final point made by Tom was that now diplomacy is about coexistence not competition. I wish all governments, and all of us, were able to work towards this simple goal. The world would be for sure a better place.
The participants actively engaged in the discussion and a fundamental question emerged regarding international cultural relations engagement: we should ask, not what government can do for the creative and cultural sector, but what can the sector do for government? I am looking forward to engaging on further discussions (and research) on this interaction between state and non-state actors, including a clarification of what is meant by soft power resources/instruments, capability and mobilisation and its link with the construction and projection of national stories/narratives.
This breakfast conversation, which was hosted by Battersea Power Station in the heart of the development, was followed by a tour of Battersea Power Station allowing to see the transformation of the heritage building first hand. The development will feature a number of cultural platforms managed in partnership by the Battersea Power Station team and arts organisations. It seems very exciting opportunities could be found there for our students in the future. Personally, I cannot wait to continue the conversation with David Twohig, Head of Design and Placemaking for the Battersea Power Station Development Company, who has written the book ‘Living in Wonderland’, about urban planning and place making.
If you are interested in studying the topics briefly touched upon above do have a look at our programme offer, namely the MA in Cultural Policy, Relations and Diplomacy and the MA Tourism and Cultural Policy at the Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship. The books mentioned above by Tom Fletcher and by David Twohig should be available shortly at the Goldsmiths Library. Photos of the event are available on my twitter feed @FigueiraCarla
Director MA Cultural Policy, Relations and Diplomacy
Director MA Tourism and Cultural Policy