Conference of the European Ministers of Culture - 20 - 22 October 2003 - Opatija, Croatie 

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Estelle Morris: No community should feel left out

To British Arts and Culture Minister Estelle Morris, building Europe means finding a common language – and no community should feel left out. Ethnic minority communities must be free to enjoy their culture, must feel that they have a place and are represented, she says in an interview during the Conference of European Culture Ministers in Croatia.

Question: How are the arts and culture used to address cultural diversity challenges in the United Kingdom?

Estelle Morris: In the UK there are different ways of communicating and expressing cultural traditions and celebrating people's roots. What we hope is to find a way for each different part of society to be free to enjoy their own culture and for that expression to be shared by everyone. Of course, it is also an important way for the second or third generation of those ethnic minority communities to take a pride in their culture a way of communicating history and ensuring that it is not forgotten. It is also important to give a place to the indigenous traditions such as morris dancing which are part of British culture but not often practiced nowadays.

Question: Some speakers at the conference suggested that culture throughout Europe and beyond was becoming uniform and homogenous. Is this true?

Estelle Morris: No, I would not say this was true. European culture has common strands and values, but there are many differences, and we should cherish these differences. At the moment Europe is working hard to find the right image for the future to walk in the same direction whilst acknowledging our differences. Historical attempts to create uniformity such as in the USSR or under dictatorships have never worked. Building Europe means finding a common language, but no new emerging state will forget their roots. Now is the moment to get it right and to say that individual expression, not homogeneity, is the key.

Question: What are your priorities as Arts Minister?

Estelle Morris: There are many pressures on governments health, education, transport, foreign affairs and defence, for example. Part of my job is to be an ambassador and an advocate both inside the government and outside. It is about getting the message to the rest of Europe that arts and culture are essential. And it is also about making sure that no community feels left out, that everyone feels they have a place and are represented.