Sound Diplomacy at Placemaking Week 2019

by Paloma Medina

La Marina de València was the host for the latest edition of Placemaking Week Europe during June 12-15th 2019; the biggest conference and festival celebrating the impact of placemaking on the urban fabric. I was thrilled to represent Sound Diplomacy at this event taking place in my hometown – an excellent opportunity to show the world how a place can be rebuilt with passion, community engagement and, among other components, a vibrant music activity. We were selected to speak on the role of music in placemaking as part of the opening night keynotes at the commencement of the festival.

The placemaking festival kicked off around sunset at the terrace in La Base, the former headquarters for the Alinghi sailing team, now turned into La Marina’s cultural hub. The Mayor of València explained that creativity must be a core value when designing a city, a proud statement since the city had been shortlisted that morning as the 2022 Global Design Capital together with Bangalore.

Our talk about music as a placemaking tool did not only resonate with València, where music is core to its cultural identity and folklore, but it was also representative of La Marina as the most prominent public space in the city that engages citizens through consistent music programming. Some people were particularly excited after our talk and created some great conversation starters during the festival – especially since one of the main topics at the conference was the role of creative bureaucracy.

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On that opening night, we were able to hear the experiences from legendary figures in placemaking, including Fred Kent (Project for Public Spaces / PlacemakingX), Charles Landry and Margie Caust (Creative Bureaucracy Festival), and the screening of “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces” from the pioneering urbanist William H. Whyte. We were in for an absolute treat with a Q&A after the screening with Fred Kent and Kathy Madden, co-founders of Project for Public Spaces and pioneering placemakers since the 1970s. Everyone was thrilled to engage in conversations with other like-minded peers, so much so we were politely kicked out of the venue around midnight.

During the next two days, myself and over 400 placemakers got involved in as many workshops and talks as possible, beginning with the first talks at 10 am and finishing as late as 11 pm in classic festival fashion. The event’s fast pace and variety of topics and sessions to engage in left me curious for more, rushing from one session to the next. I learnt about the good and the not so good experiences from other practitioners in public space co-design and co-governance with citizens, about different ways to temporarily activate unused spaces, the sustainability challenges of former EU Capitals of Culture and the power of creative bureaucracies to transform society, among other topics.

One of the highlights of the conference and festival was the Busking session led by Vivian Doumpa (The Busking Project / STIPO) in collaboration with Musicarte Urbano, Valencia’s buskers association. During one hour, we heard about the experiences of 3 buskers that are currently based in Valencia, enjoyed some of their favourite songs and listened firsthand to suggestions on how can cities best support buskers (hint: they need amplification).  

The temporary exhibition “The Social Life of Great Waterfronts”, also curated by Fred Kent and Kathy Madden, was a great space to come back to in-between sessions and recharge while having a coffee. The large scale of the exhibition was practical for taking pictures and look at closely.

The event was also the perfect background for the presentation of PlacemakingX, a new network of leaders that aim to connect and accelerate placemaking on a global scale. Needless to say, the food was delicious: local food trucks had a great variety of snacks, food and even fresh pizza straight from the oven! The ice pops available onsite were also a treat when the Valencian early summer sun settles in the afternoon. Too bad I didn’t bring my swimsuit to enjoy the Marina’s natural swimming pool – some of the other attendees were definitely more prepared!

Many thanks to STIPO, Placemaking Europe and La Marina de València for having us there. We were very happy to meet and talk to more organizations and professionals who share our vision that music is a tool to make lives better. Until next time!