ICCE OPEN LECTURE Influence and Attraction: A Debate on Soft Power – John Holden, Associate at think-thank Demos


Wednesday, 27 November, 2pm-4pm, LG02 NAB


Influence and Attraction: A Debate on Soft Power

John Holden, Associate at think-thank Demos

John Holden presents the key findings of his report Influence and Attraction: Culture and the Race for Soft Power in the 21st Century 

In his own words:

“Cultural contact between nations used to involve high art and elite meetings: Harold Macmillan visiting the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow with Khrushchev in 1959 is a paradigmatic example. But in the 21st century both culture and communication have become democratised.  Cheap flights, 24 hour news, migration and the internet have combined to create a world of mass peer-to-peer communication; and the content of much of that communication is cultural. Culture – the means we use to express ourselves through art, film, music, dance, literature and so on – provides a bridge between people.

This has huge economic and social consequences that are discussed in the report. It also has political implications, because what happens in the cultural arena increasingly affects what politicians can do: cultural misunderstandings create political problems, while an ‘attractive’ culture gives nations a licence to operate, and a chance of being persuasive.

International relations is a rapidly developing field, with new players like cities and the private sector taking a role. It is also one where Western governments are decreasing spending – and hence ceding influence. By contrast, developing nations, and particularly the BRICS, see culture as an area where they need to be more active.

Hu Jintao greeted 2012 with these words: ‘The overall strength of Chinese culture and its international influence is not commensurate with China’s international status…The international culture of the West is strong while we are weak.”

Things are starting to change: K-pop is big in Peru, Brazil will host the next Olympics, and China has opened Confucius Institutes and Classrooms in 104 countries in the last seven years.

But the growth nations of the east and south will be making a big mistake if they think cultural relations are all about power and projection. The countries that ‘win’ this race for soft power will be those whose citizens are culturally, as well as intellectually and emotionally, intelligent. Nations need to spend as much time and effort learning about other cultures as they do on telling the world about their own cultures if they are to flourish in the next century.”

You can download the report here:


Interesting debate related with this report:


Follow the UK’s Parliament committee’s discussions on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence:



ICCE highlights the IFA Conference “Europe from the Outside”

ICCE highlights the IFA Conference “Europe from the Outside”

12 December, Brussels, Belgium


The Institut für Auslandsbezieehungen (German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations) organised last week a conference reflecting on ‘European external cultural relations: Expectations from the outside’. The event, part of an on going reflection on the connection of cultures, provided participants with a much needed insight into how European external cultural relations are viewed outside of Europe and what is expected of them. Dr Carla Figueira attended on behalf of ICCE.

Insightful keynotes were provided by Dr. Natalia Chaban, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand and by Farai Mpfunya, Executive Director of the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust. A further number of interventions questioned perceptions and expectations. ICCE highlights the question asked by Katelijn Verstraete (British Council Singapore, previously Asia-Europe Foundation): “Is Europe really relevant to others?” – a powerful reality check prompt – and the advice provided by Anmol Vellani, Executive Director of the India Foundation for the Arts, that emphasised the need of European organisations to educate themselves about their partners and the contexts in which they will work and the importance of taking risks and learning from mistakes.

Proceedings of the event will be included in the 2013 EUNIC- Yearbook.

Full information on the conference is available at:



3rd EU – China High Level Cultural Forum, Gerald Lidstone



Gerald Lidstone, Director of ICCE, was invited to speak as at the 3rd EU -China High Level Cultural Forum as part of the closing ceremony of the EU China year of Intercultural Dialogue. Gerald represented with two other speakers the EU commission and were joined by thee speakers from China. He had been invited in his role as Vice President of ENCATC [European Network of Cultural Administration Training Centres] based in Brussels. The day revolved around the policy trends in cultural diplomacy/cultural relations revealed in research by Rod Fisher and Carla Figueria based in ICCE referring to some key drivers of policy change and likely challenges and opportunities that face governments and their agencies. This also covered the terminology employed in cultural relations (on which there remains confusion in and beyond Europe).

Gerald cited the recent Ditchly Foundation report highlighting the role of commercial contribution from countries that may have a greater impact than those official actions by countries. Looking at examples such as Psy from Korea and Borgen and Forbrydelsen from Denmark, as well as fashion and ‘product’ diplomacy – but also making the case to fund future projects that work on a ‘people to people’ level which do not have proscribed outcomes – that allow for risk and trust, to build stronger relationships. He also quoted the recent speech by Berthold Franke, director of the Goethe-Institut Brussels:

“Cultural exchange without the broad absence of interests is no cultural exchange. If you want to facilitate exchange of this kind, then you must create the possibility for encounters free of interests and free of power, and also always assume that this possibility exists, so as to achieve the true liberation of the potential that is held within the concept of intercultural dialogue”.

Gerald looked at reinforcing the potential for dialogue without the state – through social media and the joint development of cultural industries. At the end of the event a new agreement was signed by the Ministers of Culture of the EU and China to develop new instruments to develop intercultural dialogue.

A follow up conference in the new year in Brussels will start with the idea that:

“the classical definition of diplomacy is insufficient to encompass the existing interactions. Culture plays a crucial role in the relations between nations and in the definition of identities. Increasingly, foreign relations on both bilateral and multilateral levels are driven by public diplomacy, cultural and environmental cooperation. This is why ‘soft diplomacy’, a new angle of examining diplomacy, which involves new and non-governmental actors, becomes more and more relevant to bridge the gap between different cultures.”

It is therefore apposite that ICCE will start the first MA in Cultural Policy, Relations and Diplomacy in September 2013

Gerald is very grateful to ICCE MA students who translated his presentation for him.