The City of Ostend
The City of Ostend is a public organisation located on the Belgian coast with about 70.000 inhabitants, but the community triples during vacation breaks. It is one of the thirteen Flemish major cities which provide neighbouring towns with amenities such as schools, hospitals, recreational facilities, shopping and social events.
Ostend has a permanent cultural and artistic professional scene with a cultural centre, an arts centre, a theatre festival, social-artistic organisation, an artistic educational service, a theatre company and an urban development organisation. In Ostend more than 150 cultural organisations offer a diverse programme of cultural activities.
Ostend has had a strong attraction for artists (James Joyce, Caruso, Marvin Gay) and was a safe haven to exile authors (Joseph Roth). It has always been known as a very liberal and ‘authentic’ city due to its maritime character.
Our cultural goals/priorities are to:
Enable cultural participation to everybody in order to strengthen social cohesion and community sense
Offer diverse and qualitative artistic, cultural and leisure activities
Strengthen the artistic and cultural organisations
Support artistic creation
Valorise our cultural heritage
Strengthen the library as digital hub, multimedia expertise and information centre
For the last 15 years the cultural department of the city of Ostend has made considerable effort to guide different target groups toward cultural and leisure activities. The project is called Cultuurkans (Opportunity for Culture). This is goal is realised with support of intermediate social-cultural organisations as these organisations have direct contacts with their clients, members. The City coached this project, supports it financially and has introduced various methods to tear down barriers which prevent different target groups to participate, such as mobility, child care during the cultural activity etc.
The introduction of the UiTPAS was the second phase in our participation project: this card gives access to numerous cultural and sports activities at very low prices for MIA’s: Mensen In Armoede (People in Poverty). It is non-stigmatising for it is available for all. It requires a financial engagement of cultural organisations and institutions. The City had combined the Flemish concept of UiTPAS with the locally developed methodology of Cultuurkans.
Since 2013 the City Public Library has introduced BEACON which combines the elements of an Arts and Social Change project with Life Long Learning and focuses on digital literacy. The project combines informal learning with arts, trying to motivate learners, make them curious and imaginative, ready to discover new horizons (even) in a digital world. The project contributes to the aims of citizenship and enhances dialogue and connectivity in our local community.
The public library of Ostend is home to BEACON-City Lab and functions as a meeting point open to all, where people can find answers to their questions, receive feedback and deliver content to shape and create the future of our town. We invite regulars of the public library as well as new participants and underprivileged groups to join in and take part. The link with the city as habitat is omnipresent: the sea on one side and the polders on the other, in dialogue with its inhabitants and visitors, shaping the setting of a coastal town.
The City of Ostend has in past years joined several European funded programmes on heritage and urban planning (Interreg) : Interreg IIIB – Shared Space; Interreg IV A – 21st Century Parks; Interreg III A – Fortified Cities; Interreg IV A – Maritime Heritage in the two seas region; Interreg IVA – Revitalizing and redevelopment of old industrial sites; EFRO renovation and revitalising of the “Belle Epoque” district in Ostend.
We were in a partner learning partnership concerning audience development and participation (Grundtvig, ended in 2013) and have recently, March 2016, been accepted into Euro Cities, Culture Forum, as an Associated Partner (European funded network).