More than 150 arts leaders from 44 countries have gathered in the “cultural capital of the world” for a major summit.
The fourth Edinburgh International Culture Summit got under way on Wednesday with a welcoming address from Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and a video message from Prime Minister Theresa May.
The event, which runs until Friday at the Scottish Parliament, is taking place during the height of the Edinburgh festival season.
Ms Sturgeon welcomed the artists and policy makers gathered in the chamber to what she described as “the world’s leading forum for the discussion of arts and culture policy”, as she spoke of the festival city as the globe’s “cultural capital” at this time of year.
She said: “Your presence here speaks to our shared belief that culture is of central importance to any society. It also demonstrates our shared commitment to improve the way we support, develop and promote our culture sector.”
Ms Sturgeon spoke of the Scottish Government’s recent spending on the arts, in particular its investment of £38 million towards the construction of the V&A Dundee museum, which opens in three weeks’ time.
She told the gathering: “The building itself is a showcase of design, thanks to world-renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, and it’s also the focal point of the regeneration of Dundee’s waterfront.
“On the basis of that project, the Wall Street Journal has already listed Dundee as one of its top 10 hot destinations in the world, and Lonely Planet, the producers of the guidebooks, have named Dundee among their 10 best European places to visit in 2018.
“That kind of international attention will help to bring jobs, investment and business to Dundee. Our hope is that by highlighting the city’s design heritage, the museum will also inspire Dundee’s next generation of designers and artists. In doing so, we firmly believe it will enrich the lives of people locally and across our country.
“The V&A Dundee will showcase Scottish design to visitors from around the world, but it will also, through its exhibition programme, bring the best of international design to Scotland.
“The museum will therefore be a great example of how culture can widen our horizons. That’s something I think is a really important benefit of engaging in culture.”
Three key issues to be explored at the summit will be culture and wellbeing, culture in a networked world and culture and investment.
Speakers from as far afield as the US, India, Romania, Saudi Arabia and Singapore are some of those expected to address the event over Thursday and Friday.
“We’ll hear about the way dance has been used to help people deal with the trauma of the Rwandan genocide and we’ll hear about the use of music to treat chronic illness in the Netherlands,” the First Minister said.
“Obviously not every specific example is directly transferrable to all other countries. But the basic principle that culture has an impact on wellbeing is an important one.
“And in fact it is a principle that is now directly and very firmly recognised by the Scottish Government in our policy making.”
The summit is a collaboration between the Scottish and UK governments, the British Council, Edinburgh International Festival and the Scottish Parliament.
In a video address, Mrs May told the delegates: “Every August, tens of thousands of artists and millions of visitors descend on Edinburgh in the world’s biggest celebration of art and culture. So it’s fitting that this city also plays host to the world’s largest gathering of culture ministers.”
UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said: “The Edinburgh International Culture Summit provides a unique platform to discuss the incredible power of culture and how it can be used to bring people together from different backgrounds, communities and countries.
“Edinburgh Festivals encapsulate the creativity that is found across Scotland and the UK, and is the perfect city to host these important discussions.
“The conversations held this week will underline how culture can strengthen bonds between nations, and show that the UK remains an outward looking country that is open to visitors and ideas from across the globe.”