Composing trust #0: A new podcast series on EU international cultural relations

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This podcast is an introductory episode presenting culture Solutions’ new podcast programme entitled Composing trust, framing the discussions of the podcast programme and presenting cS objectives.

In this first episode, culture Solutions co-founders Felipe Basabe and Damien Helly introduce us to the organisation and its objectives. They share with us their sources of inspiration and their motivation. They debate the international responsibility of Europeans in building trust between societies, against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

Speakers bios and sources of inspiration, and transcript


Felipe has been working in cultural affairs and cultural diplomacy for 30 years, managing EU funds and programmes, as head of budgets and audits, mostly for Spain. He knows the world of cultural institutes inside out. He has also been an active member of the Allianz KulturStiftung, and the Fundacion Santa Maria (FSM). He has global experience of cultural relations and diplomacy.

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Podcast moderator: Hiba Touihri

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Sources of inspiration and references:

Ramon Llull: He was a medieval Catalan philosopher and mystic, who favoured dialogue and academic exchange between the Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions at his School in Majorca. His Llibre d’Amic e Amat (Book of the Beloved Ones and the Friends) is a good summary of how Europe could actually be a basis for dialogue for the understanding of different peoples and cultural traditions. 


Damien has a PhD on EU foreign and security policy .He dedicated several years of his career to the former Soviet Union and Africa in particular. For the last ten years he has worked as an independent cultural advisor and evaluator, globally. In 2014 he was one of the four independent experts recommending an EU strategy for cultural relations, as part of the European Parliament’s preparatory action on culture in EU external relations.

Link to LinkedIn profile

Podcast moderator: Hiba Touihri

> Read more

Sources of inspiration and references:

  • Concept of Bauhaus: Started as a European approach of design and then arts, and has been developed all over the world, it is now being reshaped by the EU to address climate change.
  • Beyonce and Jay-Z music video: Shot in the Louvre museum in Paris in 2018, it summarises very well the contemporary cultural challenges of Europe.

Damien Helly (00:00): You are listening to the Composing trust podcast, by culture Solutions – a series on European cultural action with the world. Is Europe still attractive? How is it perceived by outside the EU? How do Europeans promote culture together in the world, with which partners? What have they learned, what is their experience?

Our Composing Trust podcast series will address these issues. Welcome to you all! My name is Damien Helly, the co-author of this Composing trust series, by culture Solutions. In this first sepisode, with our General Coordinator Hiba Touihri and co-founder Felipe Basabe , we exchange views on why we at culture Solutions have decided to launch a podcast series on EU international cultural relations.

Hiba Touihri (01:00): Welcome everyone. This is Hiba Touihri, General Coordinator of culture Solutions. Today we are very happy to launch our Composing trust podcast series by cultural Solutions, the innovation group specialised in the cultural relations of the European Union. To do so, we have invited the founders of culture Solutions, Felipe Basabe and Damien Helly.

Felipe, you have been working in cultural affairs and cultural diplomacy for 30 years, managing EU funds and programmes as head of budgets and audits, mostly for Spain. You know the world of cultural institutes inside out. You have also been an active member of the Alliance Cultural Foundation and the Fundación Santa María. You have global experience of cultural relations and diplomacy. I would like to address the first question to Felipe. Felipe, how was culture Solutions born in 2018 and what are its goals?

Felipe Basabe (01:58): Good morning, everyone. culture Solutions way back in 2018 was actually the result of a casual meeting on the social media. Damien Helly and me met on LinkedIn, and it was in fact the meeting of two people passionate for culture and for international relations. It was in that framework that Damien was conducting a feasibility study on the need of a new platform, a new social group, a new initiative in order to help support the idea of culture in the international relations of the European Union. We have started from scratch, and it was a wide sheet that we had to fill in and start working on and actually has become a personal friendship and a professional friendship.

culture Solutions from the very beginning meant to reflect on the relevance of culture in the international relations of the European Union. So this is as an observatory to analyse and follow up the events and recent developments. At the same time, we wanted to open space for dialogue and exchange and also a platform for the transfer of know-how. Know-how sharing and training in this field was from the very beginning a very strong need that we felt in most of the stakeholders we talked to.

Hiba Touihri (03:35): Thank you, Felipe. Now my next question is addressed to Damien. Damien, you have a PhD on EU foreign and security policy. You dedicated several years of your career for the former Soviet Union and Africa in particular. For the last ten years, you have worked as an independent cultural advisor and evaluator globally. In 2014, you were one of the four independent experts recommending an EU strategy for cultural relations as part of the European Parliament’s preparatory action on culture in EU external relations. So Damien, what interested you most in xulture Solutions and on which topics do you think we should produce podcasts?

Damien Helly (04:19): Thanks, Hiba. What I like with culture Solution is that it’s a unique organisation in the European cultural landscape. It is a group, it is not a network. It is a small group of experts – some are senior, some are junior. It is small and therefore it is agile. It can change quickly, it can adapt. It is independent and it produces commons, so it produces knowledge and services that are accessible for free for all those who care about European cultural engagement worldwide.

Now, the audience may wonder why we do a podcast now in 2023, while there are now so many podcasts online. For me, it is some sort of participatory way of doing research. It’s a way of opening spaces for dialogue on the role of culture and the arts in the world in time of growing conflict and crisis in Europe. So it is the dialogue that is at the core of culture Solutions mission. So it makes sense to us to actually go this way with the podcast. And podcasts can be combined with written research products while offering some lively content for our audiences.

And this year, in 2023, I think the culture Solutions podcast should talk about the practical experience and daily business of European cultural relations in the world. Things like the various ongoing and upcoming European artistic and cultural programmes, funding opportunities. Some focus on specific sectors like digital regulations, museums, youth, and also what is happening in certain regions in the world like Asia, America or specific countries.

So the idea is to listen to the views and experience of artists, digital professionals, cultural managers, European Union representatives, diplomats, researchers and so on. And I really think that our podcast can make a difference by giving a voice and a critical and constructive voice to those who actually do concrete cultural work on a daily basis to build trust and to create confidence in international relations when there are the climate crisis inequalities all sorts of conflicts, wars, the pandemic, now inflation. So we do need these dialogues.

And because of the war in Ukraine, I think the podcast will talk about the impact of this conflict in particular and how Europe is perceived in the world after this conflict. We will start the series with a podcast on cultural heritage protection in conflict, for instance, and other topics will include decolonising cultural practices, EU, digital and Internet regulation, what it means for cultural relations, climate action, plenty of fascinating topics.

Hiba Touihri (07:34): Thank you, Damien, for those interesting themes. Now I would like to hear Felipe’s view on this question of podcast themes. So Felipe, what do you think?

Felipe Basabe (07:45): I can only stress what Damien has just said, that the added value of this series of podcasts by culture Solutions should rely in that it is a neutral tribune where we want all possible stakeholders to have a voice. Not only policymakers, not only professionals of culture, but also creators. And creators not only from the European Union. Because the EU strategy for Cultural Relations targets creators outside Europe, we really must engage and listen to what they have to say. And on the other hand, being so flexible and agile, we can not only rely on topics very closely linked to recent developments, but we can also afford to become, through this series of podcasts, an institutional memory of the European Union and its progress. Because in the last years it is amazing what has been done and advanced in the field of culture in the international relations of the European Union.

But also we should focus on specific artistic disciplines. We should address other side issues like environment, climate change, digitalisation and very specific and professionalised areas of the world of culturing in international relations, such as monitoring and evaluation, financing, processing and programming. The main issue of the cultural dimension in the process of European integration in its international dimension is changing now from process to substance. And that’s what we want to address also with this series of podcasts. This is let’s go, let’s discuss, let’s criticise, let’s debate, let’s propose. We want to open the floor to everyone who has something to say on this in an open, honest and free environment.

Hiba Touihri (09:59): Great. Thank you, Felipe. Now let’s see whom does Damien consider to be the main audiences of culture Solutions and of the culture Solutions podcast series.

Damien Helly (10:10): culture Solutions is made for professionals and to some extent, for the broad public. You don’t really need to be a fan of the European Union to listen to our culture Solutions podcast. Actually, if you don’t know or even don’t like the EU, listening to our podcast is a good way to understand who Europeans are and why they are interested in cultural and artistic affairs. I would say what we do is a bit like a B2B non-for-profit organisation and think tank. We address mainly those who can directly make a difference in new external cultural policies and international cultural relations. So in a nutshell, I would say there are three profiles we target.

The first one is the policy maker. These people need to know what is going on in cultural affairs, but they don’t have time. They need tips on how to develop effective cultural programmes in general. They know how the EU works, but not always, and they need to learn about current artistic practices and cultural policy work.

The second profile covers the creative and cultural professionals. So these are artists, cultural managers, cultural lobbyists in Brussels. Any people or country partnering with the EU cultural institutes, but also academics and students. Usually, they’re looking for funding to develop cultural relations. They’re keen to implement programmes with EU money. They know the cultural work, but they don’t have all the information they would need on how the EU bureaucracy works.

Or in the case of academics, they study specific topics, but there are aspects of EU cultural relations that they would like to know more about, more deeply. For instance, the latest political decisions made on culture, the role and certain positions of, EU member states, for instance, Germany or Slovenia, what they have been doing lately. They are usually curious about latest funding initiatives or the latest research or reports that have been published.

And finally, the third audience that we target is the broad public. It is content for citizens and people from all over the world who are curious about cultural exchanges and cultural relations, who are interested in the arts and who care about good relationships between people and continents.

Hiba Touihri (12:50): Thank you, Damien. Felipe, anything to add on cultural Solutions audiences, and what are you trying to achieve with the podcasts?

Felipe Basabe (12:57): Subsequently to what Damian said, I think that the programme of this podcast series is going to adapt to these three type of audiences. So in the beginning, we will start with very specific subjects addressed to some of these specific groups. And once we have established the good rhythm and we have identified really who our base and who is interested and who wants to jump on the project, we would clearly start addressing other issues more linked to the general public, ideas or wishes or interests.

And this links with the idea that why is this podcast series so important to culture Solutions. Not only to increase our visibility, not only to widen our group on our basis of members, but also because we are convinced that it will have an impact of the quality of our work. Because the more voices you listen to, the more voices you add to the chorus, the best, the melody and the symphony will come up.

So basically what we want is to have a new partners on board that bring us the energy, but also the perspectives, but also the needs for the future development of the series. So to all of you who are listening to us, do not hesitate to jump on the project to suggest new ideas to propose, because you can also be a protagonist of our.

Hiba Touihri (14:45): Since you’ve mentioned melodies and symphonies, Felipe, perhaps to finish we could share an artistic reference that we’d like to mention a source of inspiration for this culture Solutions podcast series.

Felipe Basabe (14:58): So when we talk about, dialogue, art, culture in Europe, we might always try to think of all those famous artists, painters, musicians and writers that have contributed, to the expansion and also to the dialogue between Europe and other parts of the world. But I would like to think about someone from the old Middle Ages, someone from the small island in the Mediterranean, Ramon Llull, who gives the name to Cultural Institute of the Catalunian region, and he was a philosopher in the 13th century who actually opened a school to all three religions to the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions, who opened the dialogue to scholars from both sides of the Mediterranean, because it was open for discussion of ideas from all worlds to make a better world.

The famous Llibre d’Amic e Amat, so a Book of the Beloved Ones and the Friends, is a good summary of how Europe could actually be a basis for dialogue for the understanding of different peoples and different cultural traditions. So Ramón Llull, why not eight centuries later, could still provide us with a good reference and example?

Hiba Touihri (16:33): And you, Damien, do you want to share with us some artistic references or sources of inspiration for this podcast series?

Damien Helly (16:40): Yeah, actually I, I have chosen to speak of two references that summarise very well the cultural challenges of our time in my view. The first one is the Beyonce and Jay-Z music video shot in the Louvre Museum in Paris in 2018. I think it summarises very well the contemporary cultural challenges of Europe. On one side, it’s about the power of digital technologies mixed with artistic creativity to reach global audiences. But on on the other side, it is also about black artists, feminism, decolonized worlds, and new ways to revisit our shared cultural heritage in a very emblematic European museum. So there’s so much to think about in this video as a source of inspiration.

And the second reference I wanted to mention is the concept of Bauhaus. It started as a European approach of design and then arts in a critical way, and then it has been developed all over the world. Initially it was very much associated with modernity and industry, and it’s now being reshaped by the EU to a address climate change, which is the challenge we should all work on and tackle. So for me, revisiting the Bauhaus is also a lighthouse to be aware of . Thank you very much.

Hiba Touihri (18:04): Thank you, Felipe and Damien, we have reached the end of this first episode, and we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for listening.  Join us on our journey to composing trust.

Damien Helly (18:20): Thank you for listening to today’s episode of our Composing trust podcast by culture Solutions! If you liked it, you can subscribe and follow us on your favourite podcast platforms, and contact us at 

The views expressed in this podcast are personal and are not the official position of culture Solutions as an organisation.
Musical creation credits: Stéphane Lam