BELONGING AND BECOMING: Culture, Heritage & our Future


Beyond the Obvious Conference

November 15-17, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome


About Belonging & Becoming


We all long to belong. In a world that is rapidly changing, a sense of Belonging to communities, cultures, territories offers a much needed anchor and allows us to remain active players in our environments. Landscapes of belonging, however, are nuanced – we ‘belong’ and are perceived to belong in many different ways at many different scales. This enables us to engage in the active, perpetual process of Becoming citizens, societies and living up to our own potential. It allows us to envision new narratives and imagery that connect pasts, presents and futures.


While culture is a cohesive force, cultural divides are constructed to satisfy simplified political rhetoric. How can we, as artists and cultural operators, engaged citizens and policy makers, rationalists and visionaries, develop an inclusive belonging? What is the impact of civic participation on social cohesion? How can we on all levels - local, national and European - create an understanding of belonging based on diversity and inclusion?


Our cultural heritage - both tangible and intangible - links us in Europe. The memories of our joint heritage, which we transmit from one generation to the next, shapemany facets of our identities. Yet what impact do these narratives have on European cultural and political identity, on inclusion and openness?


Contemporary artistic creation can be a driving force to develop new narratives, new images for possible futures. A strong cultural Europe needs informed and involved citizens and calls for social innovation and inspiring political models. This informed engagement is rooted in education in the large sense of the term, allowing for the development of creativity and curiosity, and reaching out to people of all ages in an evolving society. Such an active ‘becoming’ must be co-created by all citizens, and take the global context into account.


his Beyond the Obvious conference reviews the dynamics sketched and offers a concrete arena for productive interaction between artists, cultural operators, policy makers and political visionaries, economic and social stakeholders. It also celebrates the launch of the European Year for Cultural Heritage 2018. The conference will highlight policy issues at stake, developing a present and future of culture in Europe.


The invitation by Rome, a city gifted by rich cultural heritage, will constitute an inspiring backdrop and example. Its commitment to create a sustainable contemporary space for its citizens will enrich debates. The Palazzo delle Esposizioni, in the heart of the city, will be home to the conference for 3 days, itself a vibrant example of contemporary renewal.


The conference will host the CAE Annual General meeting and Members’ Forum. Synergies will be developed with parallel partner events hosted in the same venue by the British Council Italy on Education, Science and the Arts as well as the initiative "Lungomare Mediterraneo" by the Embassy of Croatia.

Future of Europe | CAE Reflection Paper






The Reflection Paper "Belonging and Becoming: A cultural response to the White Paper on the Future of Europe and the accompanying reflection papers" proposes a first answer to this question, reflecting the voices of over 500 cultural players throughout Europe.





  • The Cultural Sector’s assessment of the 5 Scenarios
  • Guiding principles and actions for a 6th Scenario
  • A cultural response to the European Commission reflection papers
    • Reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe
    • Reflection paper on harnessing globalisation
    • Reflection paper on the future of European defence
    • Reflection paper on the future of EU finances

Beyond the Obvious 2017

Register before 23 December and get your early bird fee! Our different ticket categories will fit all your needs.


The new obvious and the whale


People today are still living off the table scraps of the sixties. They are still being passed around -- the music and the ideas.
Bob Dylan

...I too, before I disappear, might find
in an eternal Whale whose eyes are blind
my old accustomed voice, my words arrayed
in faultless battle order; as He made
His whispers clear, with all my poor throat’s might
I could speak out, unwearied till the night,....
Mihaly Babits, (Jonah´s prayer, written in 1938, after Anschluss)


Robert Manchin, president & acting secretary general of Culture Action Europe

The thought-provoking gathering of Culture Action Europe aims to look beyond the obvious. A prophetic task fitting our mandate in society. Every year since 2014 we update our definition of the obvious. What was unthinkable the year or even the Day Before, becomes the New Obvious.

Our self-definition as a sector includes the task of sense-making, laying the foundations for shared cultural interpretations of our uncertain world. Much like a reluctant prophet before, we might prefer to reflect and think in a shade, ignoring the alarming signs of social, environmental and political tensions. The mission that unites us is to Act for Culture, to gather strength from each other in order to fulfil this calling. We will again provide an opportunity to share stories and experiences, to sketch scenarios, and build strategies.

The 2017 Beyond the Obvious conference takes place by the Danube, in Budapest, in a venue named appropriately Balna (the Whale).

We propose to take advantage of this location as a starting point to discuss the multiple challenges of the European project. Knowing that no obvious solutions exist, we need a deeper understanding of the cultural and historic viewpoints of the different European regions. After a decade of being in the EU, Central and Eastern Europe is culturally still terra incognita. Seriously underrepresented in EU cultural networks, Central and Eastern Europeans lack a voice and Europe as a whole lacks the lenses to understand the complex social and cultural developments that shape the region.

<< We wonder are the East-West socio-cultural dynamics fundamentally different?
What are the common threads?
How meaningful is the North-South paradigm?
How do we move beyond the centre-periphery dichotomy? >>

We invite you to reflect, discuss and collectively embrace the issues that a composite Europe faces today. To prevent further fragmentation this cannot be postponed.

European culture is not limited by borders. After the UK vote to leave the EU and at a time of rising global counterrevolution against cosmopolitism and globalisation, we need to urgently discuss how the cultural frameworks shaping our practices can benefit from the inclusion of cultural actors within and outside of political borders.

<< Expect lively exchanges from colleagues from UK, from the Balkan and hopefully from Russia as well >>

While we search for effective ways to act on national and global level, we have great examples of culture-led social innovations from communities at a local level.

<< Expect inspiring discussions as a break from all the doom and gloom scenarios from actors in the most innovative European cities >>

We are inviting brave cities, piloting solutions on how to create inclusive, culturally sustainable localities. A special focus will be on sharing experiences of actors from past and future or aspiring European Capitals of Cultures.

We need our collective creativity and visions to redefine the edges of culture. We cannot be blind to the signals pointing to the transformation of the global regime and the change of paradigm that it encompasses. Yet, the global changes happening are not limited to the domain of the political institutions. The digital data, information and communication revolution, the rapid transformation of work, the depletion of the biological and environmental base of our existence as a species, makes this great acceleration unpredictable.

This is the context where we need to be bold enough to move beyond our conventional assumptions. The Whale will be a space to rethink culture, to explore its borders and edges.

<< Expect to hear controversial views and be open to challenging discourses. The proven participative format of the BtO will spark inspiration and self-reflective exchange >>

We look forward to welcome you in Budapest!


For more information click here

See you all in Budapest!



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