This year’s conference brings together researchers, cultural practitioners and policy makers to share knowledge about the social dynamics through which space (public, private and virtual) serves as a site of discourse, contestation and critical reflection within and between communities.

Cities as Community Spaces aims to explore the interplay between physical/virtual space and its use by the different communities within a city. More and more people and communities around the world are coming to recognise the power of community spaces in transforming cities and the everyday lives of their residents. Great spaces attract people. People interacting with one another build stronger, healthier communities. But how are great spaces discovered, created and contested?

During the three days of plenary and parallel sessions, conference participants will explore a variety of community spaces within Valletta, including the King’s Own Band Club, San Ġorġ Preca Primary School, and the crypt of the Church of St. Augustine. An orientation visit around Valletta, short film screenings and two dinners will complement this exciting event.

Conference speakers include leading experts in the sphere of urbanism, citizen engagement, political sociology, and contemporary art. These include Shawn Micallef, editor of Spacing, the Jane Jacobs Prize-winning magazine on Canadian urbanism; Paolo Gerbaudo, author of Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism; and Christian Dimmer, a Tokyo-based urbanist and co-founder of the Open Architecture Collaborative Tokyo Chapter.

Cities as Community Spaces also features an installation titled Stories of Refuge by Beirut-based artist Tania El Khoury. El Khoury is a co-founder of the Dictaphone Group, a collective that works to reclaim public space in Lebanon through artistic performance.

This conference builds upon the findings of the conference held in October 2015, titled Cultural Mapping: Debating Spaces and Places, which brought together the contributions of academics and practitioners on cultural mapping worldwide, with a specific focus on European and Mediterranean countries/regions. The conference also supports the development of a better understanding on how cultural mapping exercises can be utilised as a tool for policy makers and cultural practitioners, while also promoting cooperation between researchers and operators.

The first Valletta 2018 conference, titled Dialogue in the Med: Exploring Identity through Networks, addressed aspects of contemporary cultural relations across the Mediterranean in the framework of Valletta as European Capital of Culture 2018. Keynote speeches were delivered by Prof. Mostafa Hassani Idrissi (l’Université Mohammed V Souissi, Morocco) and Prof. Henry Frendo (University of Malta).

The variety of international speakers were invited to reflect on how the Valletta 2018 European Capital of Culture project can contribute to a dialogue and exchange of experiences in terms of cultural experiences and expressions in the Euro-Med area, also in light of the chequered history of super-national initiatives such as the Union for the Mediterranean and the Anna Lindh Foundation.

Conference proceedings will be published in due course.