On 27th September 2018 and hosted by MLAs Mike Nesbitt, Claire Hannah and Clare Baliey, Voluntary Arts Ireland, working in partnership with Thrive, Mediation NI, Queens University Belfast, International Futures Forum and ArtsEkta convened with fellow citizens in the Parliament Buildings, Stormont to explore with others the broad question of 'What to Make of Culture in Our Times?' Against a civic and political background which is becoming increasingly fragmented and polarized, with cultural dividing lines becoming ever more evident, people came together in a civic conversation to talk, listen, think and learn from each other. And to begin to imagine how to make a transformative change for the common good. 

As part of the report from the conversation a draft 'citizens' declaration', reflective of the recorded content of the conversation and the insights, questions and intentions noted by participants, was written as a hopeful statement, suggestive of a positive cultural shift:

Our culture is an ongoing conversation with ourselves and with our neighbours, relating to our past and to our future. We are ready to be part of the difficult conversations, courteously and creatively. We want to reach beyond our familiar communities of place or interest, which sometimes get stuck in old stories, to connect with our fellow human beings and compose a new story. We want to encourage everyone to recognise commonalities across our differences. We see grounds for practical hope in listening and learning, relating and sharing, moving and working together. Change is happening both in our internal cultural landscapes and in the way we live together. We want to be part of making the cultural change and shaping our collective future. Our questions are: ‘Where to now? And how?’

The partners who planned the conversation would like to invite you to continue to engage in this conversation and there are a number of ways in which you can do so:

  • Read the full report
  • Within the declaration are two questions: Where to now? And how? Let us know your thoughts on these questions here
  • Get involved in the core planning group and help review the responses and plan next steps. There will be a meeting of the group in the New Year. Email Kevin Murphy - [email protected] for details. 
  • Continue the conversation on twitter using #CivicConversation
  • Consider organising and hosting a civic conversation, perhaps in your locality or with a community of interest - we can help advise and support you if needed (again email Kevin Murphy - [email protected])

By continuing this Civic Conversation we have opportunity to enact one way of cultivating practical hope and wise engagement in our times.