Talks & Events

Who are we and where are we headed?2017


Hosted by Artichoke in association with Durham County Council and supported by the European Commission.

2017’s Lumiere Durham conference took a wider view of the cultural impact in the world today and what this means for the future.

Read below a round up from the day form conference Chair Stella Hall.

It was a huge privilege to chair the third Lumiere Durham conference at a time when so many of us are questioning what change we can make to a world with so many apparently intractable challenges. Our speakers, individuals who really have made a difference in their different spheres, enabled a conversation which inspired us to recognise, as the Dean of Durham Cathedral reminded us, “No Man is an island”.

Claire MacDonald spoke of tools for conviviality, and although conversation might seem almost too simple, too ordinary, to count, she offered, from her Unitarian perspective, that it may be one of the best tools we have in “the great project of trying to live together” (Kofi Annan).

Each of our speakers demonstrated a connectedness to the lives and preoccupations of others which inspired positive connections to be made between us all.

Rami Bebawi, Montreal based architect, reminded us that we once lived together with animals, breathing together in the same space. Some of his designs grew from the swimming pattern of penguins and a butterfly transforming became the symbol of a city transforming itself.

James Delaney of Blockworks showed us how designing and gaming together online can build just as real connections with humans we may never encounter in real space.

Judith Knight emphasised just how pressing the issues of climate change are, and how artists in particular can lead us through a season for change by addressing them in ways that statistics can’t. Tony Heaton showed us an extraordinary sequence, which simply replaced the credits of Cry Freedom with the names of those who had died after the withdrawal of their disability benefit. We sat in silence throughout. Sometimes, we just have to stay in the discomfort zone of connecting to those who don’t share our passions and concern – and keep talking till we find the point of connection. Noeline Kavanagh vividly described it as “dancing to Duran Duran”. It may be not our idea of great music, but if we get up and dance with those for whom it is, we create new and unexpected encounters. Sometimes they may be uncomfortable, as Anu Henriques pointed out, but we need to connect as much, if not more, with those outside our circle, as those within it.

Sebastian White contrasted a beautiful circular image of the large hadron collider at CERN with an image of the rose window at Notre Dame Cathedral. From two very different worlds they could have been designed by the same hand. Other links emerged – Rami Bebawi spoke of the campfires built to welcome visitors in a new museum in Montreal, Sue Gill described with poignancy the series of campfires built to celebrate her seventieth birthday along a Morecambe Bay beach – both signaling a primeval sense of connection to each other though the shared sights and smells of burning flame. Outside, these themes were echoed at Lumiere Durham itself.

Where we are headed is of course less clear, though we had some thoughtful directions through the poetry of Selina Nwulu. Deftly, she gathered together voices from the audience and strands of our debate to create a conference poem which concluded

Nobody knows where we are going but we are heading there together.

We certainly are.

Some of our speakers, like Anu Henriques of Skin Deep, are at the very beginning of their journey, and emphasised the need to “pass the mic”, bringing others, particularly the next generation, forward. Laura Pidcock, young MP for North West Durham is one of them and her call to “elevate equality” and ensure “nobody is left in the indignity of poverty” is a clarion call to young and old. Karima Grant of ImagiNation Afrika identified that 60% of the continent’s population is under twenty five and her focus was therefore to ensure that their voices were clearly heard.

Sometimes we may feel that the path is unclear but it is up to us to make it

“Traveler, there is no path. We make the path by walking”

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