Karen d’Arcangelo interviews Dorian Branea, president of the European Union National Institutes of London, and discusses the value of European culture and EUNIC’s future projects.
I arrived at a charming white building in Belgravia Square, neighbour of many other Cultural Institutes and Embassies to meet the president of the European Union National Institutions for Culture London (EUNIC) at the Romanian Cultural Institute of which he is also the Director. Personally fascinated by an organization that promotes the arts within different cultures in Europe, I was excited to see what Mr. Branea had to say about the way he views culture in Europe currently, and how the UK compares to its neighbouring countries.
Mr. Branea you are the president of the EUNIC London cluster, what is it?
EUNIC is an association, a platform of cooperation used to connect with other cultural institutions in London. It is also a way of unifying the cultural European Union to the embassies that don’t have cultural institutes in London. So it’s a form of collaboration and it’s a form of cooperation.
How does the EUNIC work? Is there a cluster in every European city?
There are about 90 clusters in the world, many of them in Europe, not necessarily in the European Union, and in other continents. Wherever there are at least three cultural institutes from the European Union or embassies, a ‘cluster’ can be formed. This ‘cluster’ establishes itself at creating various projects and collaborations to promote European culture.
The idea of ‘European Culture’ and European identity is quite an interesting topic especially here in England, do you believe in it?
I personally believe very much in European culture, I’m in favour of the European Union and I belong to it. There is a lot of diversity, many things that we do differently but Europe is one culture with a lot of variations. It is easy to look at Europe as an ensemble of many countries and many cultures, but if you look at it from another continent’s perspective, you’ll be surprised of how similar we are, how many values, feelings, images, symbols are common to this continent. However, this doesn’t mean that our identity as a country, and as a culture, is dissolved.
The concept of ‘Europeaness’ seems to be perceived differently from the UK then the continent, does this make it more difficult for EUNIC to operate in London?
This might be a way of seeing it, but I think that the UK is a part of Europe, the history of Europe and European culture as much as any other European country. Of course, the UK has had some political issues and visions that may in some respects differ from that of the continent, but in terms of culture; of artists, painters, and filmmakers, the UK is just as European. We see this everyday at EUNIC because we operate and cooperate with a lot of artists and institutions in London and Britain and there is no contradiction, nothing that would make one believe that there is something so different between the UK and Europe.
London is a wonderful platform for inviting cultures from all around the world…
It is global city more than an English and British city, the diversity here is amazing; diversity of culture, cultural initiatives, projects, the cultural scene is so dynamic and even as a market it’s so mature and so competitive. In this respect it’s an open city which welcomes diversity with open arms.
What kind of events and projects does EUNIC London put up?
Well I’d like to say that first of all, EUNIC London is the biggest cluster in the world having 30 members. With nine projects in 2013, the range of our activities stands out in comparison to other clusters. What I see is the diversity of the projects; in film, literature, dance, in science and robotics, pretty much any kind of arts, every other month there is a project organised by a member of the EUNIC London cluster. I think these projects are very important for places outside the EU and the way in which we project our culture – it’s an extraordinary example of European non-violent power.
Do you think that there is a country that is more cultural than another? Which one is your favourite apart from, obviously your hometown, Romania?
I have very cosmopolitan tastes, I like many things in many cultures, I’ve never bought the idea that we can’t find anything interesting in a particular country, that is why I travel a lot. I try to find really interesting things that are undiscovered. Of course I’m here to promote Romanian culture, it’s what I do and I love, but of course, I love everything of European and non-European cultures.
What is the best way to get involved with EUNIC?
There are many avenues one can take; one is to work with our members and their projects, which are directly involved in EUNIC. Other ways is to be a cultural student, there’s an MA at Goldsmiths, and we have this partnership with cultural diplomacy. Or you could join us as a volunteer and work with us in various projects.