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A seminar about innovative and creative citizen participation

Welcome to join us for an opening seminar for the theatre festival &FEST – FOCUS GENT, hosted by & and the city of Espoo. The festival will be launched on March 5th by the leaders of Espoo and Ghent.

The cities of Ghent and Espoo have many things in common: they are creative, innovative cities, home to leading universities and increasingly diverse populations.

The seminar's structure commits to local participation and inclusive ways of engaging citizens of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. This also aligns with the spirit of the priorities picked by the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU for spring 2024: culture and participation.

By joining resources, we can reach a deeper understanding of each other. We also create sustainable methods of political, social and cultural participation, with help of culture and arts in this process. This event is especially suitable for politicians, civil servants, representatives of associations and communities, companies in the region, people working in arts and culture, and journalists

The event is organized by the City of Espoo and & in collaboration with Aalto University. &FEST – FOCUS GHENT brings 5.-28.3. six fantastic productions from Ghentian stages, which are known for their very high artistic profile and strong collaborative traditions.


Topics of the day:
Introduction speech by Mervi Katainen, Chair of the City Board

Social engagement and cultural initiatives in Ghent by Sami Souguir, deputy Mayor of Culture of Ghent

Inclusive methods for engaging citizens from different cultural backgrounds to City service development by Annukka Svanda, Doctoral researcher of Department of Design at Aalto University

"There are not enough problems in psychiatry" Lucinda Ra & relational practices in Stadsatelier at Kunstencentrum Viernulvier by Simon Allemeersch, artist & researcher

What if we all felt we had a voice? perspective on social inclusion by Fadumo Ali, entrepreneur, CEO and nurse

Panel discussion

Teemu Haapalehto, director of Immigration Affairs Espoo
Lien Van de Velde , director of the Culture Department of the City of Ghent
Simon Allemeersch, artist, Ghent
Mania Alkhatib, director of the Finland-Syria Friendship Society

moderated by Ahmed Al-Nawas, independent artist and art curator

After the seminar, we welcome all the participants to join us at the opening ceremony of the festival.

We also encourage everybody to join us to our opening performance after the opening ceremony.

ONE SONG at Dance House Helsinki 7 pm, tickets and information

Annukka Svanda

Annukka Svanda is a Doctoral Researcher at Aalto University Department of Design, School of Arts, Design and Architecture and a member of the ENCORE (Engaging Co-Design) research group. She is a Master of Arts from the Collaborative and Industrial Design program at Aalto University. Her doctoral thesis aims to leverage service design to support inclusive and just public service development. Annukka has work experience in conducting participatory design with special target groups as well as engaging public organizations in service design processes. Her academic research has been published in Codesign, the International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts as well as the NORDES conference. Committed to inclusivity, she emphasises bringing the results of her academic research work visible in the form of popular sources accessible to the different stakeholders of the research projects.

Simon Allemeersch

Simon Allemeersch (°1980) is a theatre maker and doctoral researcher in the Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy at Ghent University. As a theatre maker, he worked for a long time from the inside of the Rabot Towers in Ghent. This artistic trajectory formed the basis for a doctoral research into the lived experience and housing pathways of residents in social high-rise and psychiatry. He is a member of the artist run Lucinda Ra collective, and is associated with arts institution VIERNULVIER and the Museum Dr. Guislain in Ghent.

Fadumo Ali

Fadumo Ali is the founder of Hoiwa Oy, a social and health care company, and in 2021 she was selected for the list of 100 Healthcare Influencers of the Year (Mediuutiset) and Espoo Entrepreneur of the Year 2022.

Fadumo set out to solve the shortage of healthcare employees in Finland. In two years she has brought about multiple changes in the sector, including raising nurse salaries and helping organizations to recruit staff quickly and flexibly. Hoiwa already has over 2500 workers in long and even one-day contracts.

Ahmed Al-Nawas

Ahmed Al-Nawas is a Helsinki-based artist and curator. He holds a master's degree in visual culture from Aalto University and is currently studying in the Decolonizing Architecture program at the Royal Institute of Art in Sweden (KKH). Al-Nawas's recent collaborative projects with artist Minna Henriksson have been featured in various exhibitions, including the Helsinki Biennale, Serlachius Museum, Helsinki Art Museum HAM, and Turku Art Museum. His works can also be found in the Helsinki City Art Collection and the Finnish National Gallery collection. Al-Nawas co-founded two interdisciplinary art spaces in Helsinki: Thirds Space and the Museum of Impossible Forms. The Museum of Impossible Forms was awarded the Finnish Association of Researchers Prize in 2019 and the Finnish State Art Prize in 2020.

Lien Van de Velde

Lien Van de Velde is the director of the city's culture department since 2022 in Ghent. A city where she loves to live and work.

After her studies ‘commercial sciences’, she started as IT - consultant for several international companies and have been working for the City of Ghent for 10 years. Before her current role she was active as an organizational developer, policy officer and chief of cabinet. She was also a board member of several social and cultural organizations in Ghent. In her current job as director, she is also responsible for strategically shaping the candidacy of Ghent as European Capital of Culture in 2030.

Lien is passionate and driven by the organization of our society and culture.