Living Heritage (1998-2005)

Community development through cultural resources in SE Europe

Between 1998 and 2005, I was commissioned by the King Baudouin Foundation (Belgium) to work on a new programme to support community cultural action in South East Europe. Following a period of research into local heritage projects in Northern Europe, I drafted the guiding principles for the programme which was launched in Skopje (Macedonia) in March 2001. Over the next four years, and working with a consortium of local partners and foundations, the programme supported 140 community projects in Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania. The projects included festivals, local museums, performing arts, crafts, natural spaces and many other forms, mostly drawing on traditional culture. Most of it took place in remote areas, and most of the groups had never had any external support before. I worked on the training and support of the community groups and later on the evaluation of the programmes in each country and overall.

The Living Heritage Programme was one of the best things I’ve been involved in. The need was huge and the commitment of local people deeply impressive. As a result, results in terms of empowerment and community development were exceptional. I am still in touch with some of the people involved and in many projects both work and its effects have been sustained for years after the completion of the projects. The programme confirmed my conviction that people can imagine and deliver life-changing work in their own communities when they are given the means to do so. It also taught me a huge amount about community development, human resilience and the power of culture to energise people, even in very difficult circumstances.

Reports on individual country evaluations can be downloaded here:

The final Living Heritage Report can be downloaded here: