Christiania: 5th Free Cultural Spaces Symposium
Christiania: the 5th Free Cultural Spaces Symposium.
Symposium delegate, Abraham Vega slightly (mis)quoted:
“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”
George Bernard Shaw.
But in lots of ways it sums up what the Free Cultural Spaces Symposium is. It’s a place for exchanging ideas. An exploratory for people to come from around the world and share their stories of growing intentional communities, of squatting, eco-farms, floating cities, artistic and cultural centres.
The 5th Futurological Free Cultural Spaces Symposium in Christiania, Copenhagen took place in the Grey Hall for three days in September 2015. It was also the 44th Birthday party for the now-legal freetown of Christiania. The theme was the individual and the collective. But the spirit was one of imaginative invention. Of fun, music and an exhilarating celebration of different ways of living and of cultural diversity. The pursuit of alternatives. Of playful innovation. A workshop or even a ‘Mind-Spring’ for alternative counter-cultures.
To quote Chiara Baldini from the Boom Festival in Portugal, where the 4th Symposium took place:
“Free Cultural Spaces attempt to create bridges between islands of light”.
They offer new visions and ways of living and organisation – examples of creativity and energy offered to each other and to the rest of the world. In diverse places and spaces ranging from Mongolia to New York; from Ruigoord Cultural Freeport in Amsterdam to the Shiram Community in Russia, Village des Art in Senegal and the Burning Man Festival in the United States; from Thylejren in Denmark to Maastricht Landbouwbelang in the Netherlands, and many, many more.
The three days allowed time to listen to dozens of presentations from speakers; time to reflect on past histories and struggles; plenty of musical and artistic performances; participation and exchange of experiences and knowledge, and for discussing, and planning towards the future. There was a perhaps predictable focus on the past history of Copenhagen and the original squatting of Christiania and the parallel history of Provos in Amsterdam and the occupation of the village of Ruigoord. We heard about the original, iconic ‘white bicycle’ scheme of the Provos and the reality of the white bicycles in Copenhagen.
Together, the participants proactively shared their diverse opinions on local and global issues – liberating education – ownership – and the effects and realities of ‘normalisation’ of radical actions and spaces – recycling – green economics and land-use – privacy and collectivity. And finally ‘big’ global issues like war, migration and freedom (or lack of it) to have adequate homes, to travel, and freedom for creative cultural spaces. Places where lives can be led more communally and creative and artistic freedom exists.
The Symposium ended on a natural ‘high’. Good vibrations. This is a symposium of diggers and dreamers. Of visionaries and activists. There was a lively interchange of views on where future symposia could be held. Shiram in Russia, Maastricht Landbouwbelang in the Netherlands and the arts community of Skarkall in Sweden were all suggested. In fact, it may be possible for there to be a number of mini-symposia in addition to a major annual symposia. Good networking between free cultural spaces is a key to the future, with the utilisation of a free cultural spaces ‘web of hubs’ being a part of that process. A group strength based on diversity. A willingness to allow individuals to hold divergent opinions and live very differently. An agreement that there may be many ways of living.
The 5th Free Cultural Spaces Symposium ended with a procession of participants weaving through the busy birthday party-filled streets of Christiania down to the water’s edge for a tree-planting ceremony. Delegates from all round the world had each brought with them an inscribed piece of wood, some water and earth from the homelands. It was communally shared to give life and nurture to the tree and to Christiania.
A theme, or a range of themes, for future symposia have yet to be agreed, but ideas are being shared including: conflict resolution; the power of humour; resolving contradictions, a declaration on the rights of free spaces, or, making and developing connections.
And, we were all privileged to spend time in Christiania freetown with all its vibrancy, lively residents and visitors from all over the world. Our hosts looked after us well in the Grey Hall, and we even managed a little time to explore some of the delights of Copenhagen, a European capital city of considerable grandeur.