Plumber and Community leader, Prshovce Rural Communities Culture

Portraying the change

How can you describe a cultural programme that has extended over 14 years, 9 countries and 3,000 projects? How do you account for its outcomes, the change it may have contributed to, and the effects on culture or society?

That was the challenge faced by the small team of people who have managed the Swiss Cultural Programme in the Western Balkans in recent years, and which has just come to an end. I helped them with the review process and wrote a report that tries to show the wood, if not all the trees.  The report, Cultural Encounters, is available to download here.

But this work is about people, people of all ages and cultures and backgrounds, coming together to talk, learn, make art, share ideas, challenge themselves and each other, create, demonstrate commitment, think, perform, laugh, sometimes cry, and ultimately help build a better society one person, one place, one day at a time. So we had the idea of interviewing 24 people who had been involved in the programme in recent years – not the organisers or project leaders, but those who’ve taken part, given their time and benefited from the experience.

Alongside the interviews, conducted by experienced journalists in the relevant languages, we commissioned portraits from local photographers. The resulting exhibition, Portraying the Change, was shown at the National Gallery of Bosnia Herzegovina, in Sarajevo, last week, at the launch of the event marking the formal end of the programme. Half of those portraits, with short extracts from the interviews, can be seen here.

All the portraits, and longer extracts from the interviews, are included in Cultural Encounters. I hope that these voices speak for themselves.

SCP Report Cover 2