Rural-Urban Cultural Connections: Mid-Project Lessons Summarised

Tue 30 Jul 2019

Just as culture matters in our lives and localities, culture also plays an important role in bringing people and places together. The ROBUST Cultural Connections Community of Practice recently produced a mid-project report that highlights its early findings on how culture can create and strengthen connections between rural and urban areas. 

The report Strengthening Rural-Urban Cultural Connections: Three Lessons from ROBUST's Cultural Connections Community of Practice (click to download) discusses what cultural connections are and why they matter to regions, and offers some practice-based approaches to how culture can improve rural-urban synergies. Here we highlight three lessons that ROBUST has already learned about strengthening rural-urban cultural connections.

Lesson 1 from Tukums, Latvia: Coordinate Cultural Life

Cultural activities, events and attractions – from museums and galleries to events and festivals – can be found in many different places across a region, for both locals and visitors to access. Coordinating cultural life means connecting activities, events, and the people who enjoy them.

These connections could be as straightforward as a shared events calendar, or as complex as a regional cultural strategy. The aim of coordination is to reduce duplication, share resources, and work together. This helps reduce redundancy, improve efficiency, enable resource sharing, and make cultural institutions stronger together.

Lesson 2 from the Metropolitan Area of Styria: Enhance Local and Regional Identity

Identity matters for liveable regions. Enhancing local and regional identities means making positive connections between people and place, by supporting what makes a locality distinctive, and what makes cultural life shared.

When we identify with where we live, we are able to feel more included in cultural life and empowered to make our own contributions. This includes celebrating and supporting both what makes a local area distinctive, and what makes cultural life in a region something shared and inclusive. The aim is to bring people together across the region.

Lesson 3 from Lucca, Italy: Valorise Rural Culture Sustainably

Valorising rural culture sustainably means celebrating what is special and alive, enabling rural culture to be a valuable part of the present – not left behind in the past. If rural places are to be attractive to live in, work in, and visit, then rural culture needs to be valorised. That means celebrating rural culture as something unique with real value – and alive.

It’s all too easy to imagine rural culture as part of the past, but shaping sustainable futures for our regions starts with enabling rural culture to be a valuable part of the present. Food, arts, and festivals are among the many ways in which rural culture can be sustainably given space to shine.

These three key lessons present ways to work with rural-urban cultural connections across a variety of places and contexts. The box below suggests some questions that can be used to assess the existing situation in a given region, and to identify new opportunities


Over the next year, ROBUST’s Cultural Connections Community of Practice will continue to work together to learn and share their experiences. As part of their collective research, they will explore three main questions:

  • How do cultural connections shape localities?
  • How do cultural connections stimulate smart regional development?
  • How can cultural connections inspire new governance networks and novel political arrangements?

Across the ROBUST Living Labs, the Cultural Connections CoP be experimenting with ways to answer these questions. In Lucca, the team will examine how traditional rural knowledge can be recognised as valuable by local dwellers and visitors alike, in order to prevent abandonment and promote sustainable tourist experiences. The Tukums team will be actively involved in the creation of a cultural strategy that allows for a cohesive approach to cultural life across the region. In Mid Wales, the Living Lab brings language into the mix by looking at the importance of Welsh speaking in identity and economic development. In Styria, the team will test ways to foster synergies between urban and rural cultural life, especially through tailoring cultural offers to people living in rural areas.

Visit the ROBUST Cultural Connections webpage for future updates!

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News about Rural-Urban Europe and the ROBUST project is published regularly in the INFORMED CITIES newsletter.

ROBUST is a European research project involving 24 partners from 11 countries. ROBUST receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727988.

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