The European Heritage Days, a joint initiative of the Council of Europe and the European Commission since 1999, are the most widely celebrated participatory cultural events shared by people living in Europe. The pan-European nature of the programme contributes to bringing citizens together and highlighting the European dimension of cultural heritage in the 50 signatory States of the European Cultural Convention. Up to 70,000 events are organised each year in order to help raise awareness of the value of this common heritage and the need for its conservation for present and future generations.
The 2021 #EuropeanHeritageDays will celebrate Inclusive and Diverse Heritage to encourage broad participation in culture, to foster and celebrate diversity, and to emphasise that interaction with individuals and communities with different cultural backgrounds can enrich our lives. Particular attention will be paid to making events more accessible, both in terms of removing physical barriers and of offering a platform to different groups, including vulnerable and marginalised people who often have less opportunity to share their stories.
“Creating shared experiences through culture and artistic expression is a powerful tool for strengthening social cohesion, respect for diversity and human rights for all. Democratic participation in culture is a key instrument in helping us achieve these aims. The European Heritage Days contribute to building bridges by celebrating the richness of European cultural heritage and they provide us with a valuable opportunity to explore and celebrate the mosaic of cultures from which Europe is built. Like freedom of expression, freedom of cultural expression is essential for creativity and a flourishing cultural life”, said Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
After a year marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, the European Heritage Days will celebrate the re-opening of heritage sites and will offer everyone an opportunity to meet and share. A wide range of cultural events taking place mostly in September and October in participating countries will include exhibitions, workshops, performances, guided tours and many other activities. Breaking down barriers will be at the heart of the EHD 2021 season, from ensuring that events can be enjoyed by people with a sensory or physical disability, to linking inclusive heritage to railway heritage with a view to encouraging travel across regions and improving accessibility of EHD events for persons with reduced mobility in the context of the 2021 European Year of Rail.
Two European cross-frontier co-operation initiatives are also being implemented to promote inclusion and diversity. The project “Heritage, Women’s Legacy” led by Spain in partnership with France, Italy, Romania, Slovenia and England, aims to achieve greater equality between men and women and greater presence and visibility of women’s contributions to common European cultural heritage. Another initiative, “Our queer cultural heritage”, led by Scotland in collaboration with partners in Germany and Ukraine, contributes to furthering our understanding of the history of access and participation in the world of sports.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the cultural sector, including the organisation of EHD events. Thanks to the creativity and commitment of event organisers, numerous socially distanced physical events will take place in 2021, alongside multiple digital initiatives which will give a boost to local stories, enabling them to resonate at European and global level.
“Europe’s museums, archives, monuments and other sites featured by the European Heritage Days, give us much to share, cherish and safeguard. Advances in technology are opening up opportunities to digitise cultural heritage and it is now becoming a centre stage for its collection, preservation and celebration. The online availability of cultural content offered by EHD local events makes it possible for people throughout Europe to enjoy access to it for education, work or entertainment”, said Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.
Celebrated in 50 signatory States to the European Cultural Convention, the European Heritage Days highlight the diversity of local skills, traditions, architectural styles and works of art that constitute shared European heritage. Launched by the Council of Europe in 1985 in France, the Days have been organised as a joint initiative of the European Commission and the Council of Europe since 1999. Enabling citizens to explore a wide range of cultural assets through a number of themed events, European Heritage Days help uncover histories of people and places that have contributed to shape the culture and heritage of Europe.
The European Heritage Days raise awareness of heritage, both tangible and intangible, which has helped to shape people’s culture throughout history, thus promoting understanding of the past to better shape the future. Heritage is about objects and places, and the meanings and uses that people attach to them and the values they represent. The European Heritage Days develop and strengthen a feeling of belonging and of responsibility for heritage, underlining the relevance of cultural rights as human rights aiming at assuring the enjoyment of culture in conditions of equality and non-discrimination.
Their aim is to increase understanding of a shared European past, encourage appreciation of traditional values and inspire new heritage conservation and education practices. Cultural heritage has always been recognised as a priority by the Council of Europe. It is also a pivotal theme under Creative Europe, the EU’s programme for the cultural and creative sectors, supporting the European Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage, adopted in December 2018 to secure the long term impact of the European Year of Cultural Heritage.
Council of Europe: European Heritage Days
European Commission: European Heritage Days
Twitter: @JEP_EHD #EuropeanHeritageDays #JEP2021
Instagram: @europeanheritagedays #EuropeanHeritageDays
Giuseppe Zaffuto, Spokesperson/Press officer, Tel. +33 6 86 32 10 24