Anchoring ICORN in the Baltic Sea Region – Navigating new possibilities for freedom of speech

This autumn a new network based on the participating members of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) in the Baltic Sea region will be launched. Anchoring ICORN in the Baltic Sea Region aims to expand knowledge-sharing platforms starting with the following institutions: Cultural Industries Association (Lviv/Ukraine), the House of Free Speech (Växjö/Sweden), Krakow Festival Office (Krakow/Poland), Publishers’ Forum (Lviv/Ukraine), Villa Decius Association (Krakow/Poland). 


The idea for the project was spurred by our desire to engage with other Central European cities around the issues of freedom of speech and expression in very practical ways and to encourage membership, or at least cooperation, with the ICORN – network. We see great advantage in being active members of ICORN, and as both Krakow and Lviv are UNESCO Cities of Literature, we feel an added responsibility to champion democratic values and working to develop partnerships that centre on them” says Justyna Jochym, from the Krakow Festival Office, coordinator of the ICORN program at the municipal level in Krakow, Poland. 


The project is focused on building promotional strategies of the region’s integration activities of persecuted writers, their literature as well as human rights principles. It aims to prepare the foundation for future development of the network in the region and joint initiatives. Its activities will comprise of a series of national workshops, conferences and network meetings in all three countries, among others.


Małgorzata Różańska from the Villa Decius Association, which operates the ICORN program on behalf of Krakow, adds:


For several years we have been hearing voices within different Polish and Ukrainian cultural organisations, artists and art managers that more cities in this region should be part of ICORN, but setting up the programme in these cities is not always easy and straight-forward. The platforms for developing cooperation were limited. With this project we have the perfect opportunity to build a new type of network that supports interested municipalities in becoming members or partners of the network. We will learn from each other’s expertise, provide even better services for our writers and artists, and expand on our integration strategies, so that our city can most fully benefit from the unique value these artists bring to them.”


Anchoring ICORN will start in October 2016 and end in March 2018. During this period a series of workshops and network meetings will be held in each partner country. The workshops will be attended by national partners (local stakeholders, NGO´s, universities, media and local government representatives) working within the field of freedom of speech, integration of persecuted artists or literature. At the end of 2017 an international conference will be held in Krakow, Poland, where the compounded know – how will be presented.


The first national workshop will be held in the House of Free Speech, Växjö/Sweden in November 2016. Karin Hansson from this organization is thrilled by this perspective and says:


Växjö is a proud partner of ICORN and wants to be a part of the development of the guest city system. We also want to create platforms for municipal, private and non-profit initiatives that promote freedom of expression and literature. The experience and knowledge that will be gathered and exchanged during the national and international meetings will be used to strengthen the work of the ICORN cities and also increase the opportunities for persecuted artists to in Sweden”. 


The project is being carried out with financial support from the Swedish Institute. 


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