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CIRCE Community Summit - Tabakalera

Reflections on the CIRCE Community Summit 2023, which took place between 29th-30th June at the Tabakalera, San Sebastian.

Published onJul 05, 2023
CIRCE Community Summit - Tabakalera

Introducing the CIRCE Community Summit

by Hannah Curran-Troop

©Xanthia Mavraki

The CIRCE Community Summit, which was held on the 29th and 30th in San Sebastian, marks the second coming together of the wider CIRCE team. Comprised of over 140 people, the CIRCE community is made up of artists, researchers, cultural workers, policy makers, and creative entrepreneurs, coming from a broad range of disciplines, practices, and approaches to consider new solutions for the challenges of our time such as climate change, demographic changes and social inequalities. This summit then represented a crucial opportunity to gather, exchange ideas and contemplate collaboration across the Research Labs, Fellowships, and Impact Funds representing the wider CIRCE community.  

Indeed, it was not a coincidence that such an event took place in the international centre for contemporary culture, Tabakalera. As well as representing one of the CIRCE Research Labs, Tabakerla is an institution which fosters local networks and communities as key components of social transformation within its everyday activities. With its shared mission to support creators and the cultural and creative sector more broadly, Tabakalera centres collaboration and bridging connections as part of its work around social impact through the arts. It was in this generative setting that the two days of CIRCE workshops and sessions took place, and through which three key themes materialised: ‘coming together better’; meaningful, synergetic connections; and fostering collaboration, as explored by the London Lab’s Research Assistant’s throughout this blog piece. 

How we come together better: reflections on the organisation of CIRCE Community Summit

by Si Long Chan

© Si Long Chan

‘Coming together better’

When Dr Teresa Koloma Beck opened the CIRCE Community Summit with these words, she spoke not only to why we came together at the Tabakalera and more broadly the work of CIRCE, but also questions of how we come together. These words emphasise the importance of considering what work we do as a part of the CIRCE Community and why we do this, but also how the work is done. With this in mind, I reflect on the structure of the Community Summit, and in particular, experiences of non-hierarchical space, and representation.  

The first day of the Community Summit began with a warm welcome and panel discussion of ‘why is collaboration important for creative impact?’ Day one involved several BarCamps and Care sessions which ran in tandem to one another:  

BarCamp 1: How to ‘narrate’ impact? 

BarCamp 2: How to establish and nourish partnerships and how to embed one’s project(s) in a creative ecosystem? 

BarCamp 3: How to work towards DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) in your project/organisation? 

BarCamp 4: Open session: What do you want to talk about? 

Care Session with Melli Erzuah  

On the evening we enjoyed a dinner provided by the Digital Gastronomy Lab at the Tabakalera and talking with attendees of the Community Summit alongside live music. On the second day we attended a presentation and tour of Tabakalera as well as the opportunity to engage with the work of Artists in Residency. Finally, there was a Conclusion and Evaluation session in which we participated in shared feedback from attendees of the Summit.  

Looking at this brief overview of the Community Summit, there are elements of the organisation which echo the more ‘traditional’ conference structure. However, in questioning how we come together, the integration of BarCamps and Care Sessions is of great interest. BarCamps, also referred to as ‘unconferences’ are events for non-hierarchical knowledge exchange which challenge traditional structures of knowledge exchange at conferences (see Dennerlein et al., 2015). Whilst the BarCamp was not felt at the level of agenda setting for the Community Summit, power sharing in knowledge exchange took place at the level of the individual BarCamps highlighted above, perhaps more familiar to some as ‘workshop’ space. Efforts to share power in regard to the 4 BarCamp conversations above are vital and demonstrate attempts to integrate care in the organisation of how we come together better.

However, a question that remains for me, is how do we translate this level of non-hierarchical power sharing at the scale of agenda setting for future Community Summits?  

Considering power sharing draws to mind questions of representation at the Community Summit. More specifically, the spatiality of ‘Europe’ and questions of who the CIRCE Community are. Participating in the evaluation of the Community Summit, it was clear from a shared poll that on average, representation of the local and national were not felt as much as the international. Questions of participation across these scales within the CIRCE Community as representative of a European international think tank are important to consider in drawing out spatial inequalities in diversity, especially in considering how we come together better.  


Dennerlein, S., Gutounig, R., Kaiser, R., Barreiros, C., and Rauter, R., (2015), ‘Knowledge Strategies in Organisations: A Case for the Barcamp Format’, in European Conference on Knowledge Management. Academic Conferences International Limited.  

The importance of creating meaningful synergetic connections for creative and social impact  

  by Paromita Saha, PhD

© Si Long Chan

The CIRCE summit’s sessions explored the idea of synergy given the project brought together academics, scientists, and practitioners from cultural and creative economies from across Europe to develop creative solutions to current challenges.  

The first session focused on the overarching question of why collaboration is important for creative impact. Panelists gave their insights into the importance of collaborating across borders and how they navigate and reconcile differences as they arise within the context of their work.  

CIRCE research fellow, Gemma Milne conceptualized collaboration as a process that requires practitioners to enter different spaces. One which requires finding a level to converse that is inclusive of all levels of knowledge.  Milne is a Glasgow based Science & Technology journalist, author and researcher whose work involves examining the role cultural and creative economies play in imaging “prefigurative politics,” for the space sector. She explained it was useful to set a “theoretical minimum,” which establishes the base level of knowledge that different stakeholders need to create conversations.  

There was also the question of how practitioners from the diametrically opposed fields of science and art can effectively collaborate. Cultural institutions such as Tabakalera in Donostia-San Sebastien can provide public spaces for artists and scientists to work together and bring their perspectives as well as knowledge to envision alternate realties that effectively tackle societal challenges. Clara Montero who is the Cultural Director of Tabakalera said such collaborations across two diametrically opposed spheres requires practitioners to go beyond their work and create resonances with one another. Successful collaborations cannot rely on mere exchanges of knowledge.  

However, the biggest challenge is how effective collaboration can occur when inequities experienced by marginalized groups plague the European cultural and social landscape. Natasha A. Kelly, who is the co-founder and co-creator of the Black European Academic Network (BEAN) spoke of how knowledge is limited to Eurocentric ideas about Blackness.  Policy makers, practitioners from all spheres, and thought leaders need to understand how the intersection of knowledge, power, and bodies can exacerbate inequities. This understanding is critical to ensuring the right mechanisms are in place to ensure the equitable sharing of knowledge, and cultural resources amongst communities. Otherwise, innovative collaborations between art and science become meaningless if they do not address this very issue. 

Nurturing Connections: Fostering Collaboration and Diversity at the Tabakalera Summit

by Xanthia Mavraki

©Xanthia Mavraki

Being at Tabakalera for the Summit provided a long-awaited opportunity for members of the CIRCE network to come together, connect, and engage with one another. The presence of fellows, research labs, and impact organisations created a vibrant atmosphere that fostered creativity, collaboration, and the harmonisation of diverse voices working towards a shared objective. 

The significance of such gathering spaces cannot be overstated, as they play a vital role in nurturing creative endeavours and facilitating meaningful connections. Artists, academics, policymakers, and other creative individuals and entrepreneurs converged in one location, bringing with them a wealth of distinct knowledge, lived experiences, and future aspirations. This convergence of perspectives, goals, and talents formed the bedrock of the summit's focus on collaboration, aiming to establish both vertical and horizontal connections at a time when they are greatly needed. 

In the wake of the pandemic and the consequences of Brexit, numerous bridges between communities and individuals appeared to have been severed, resulting in a sense of isolation that pervaded both literally and metaphorically. However, spaces that emulate the essence of the Latin forum, where public discussions and debates unfold, and serve as arenas for interactions and dialogue, are essential for cultivating a sustainable, diverse, and inclusive creative economy. These spaces become vital hubs for fostering collective understanding and charting a path towards a more interconnected and vibrant future. 


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