: ‘Thinking and Doing in Rural Places; Cultural Practices in Context’ courtesy General Technical Secretariat of the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Sports

Rutger Emmelkamp | Spain

In May 2023, KNOCKvologan (Rutger Emmelkamp and Miek Zwamborn) received an email from The Ministry of Culture and Sports of Spain inviting them to speak about their project during a three-day Forum ‘Cultura y Ruralidades’ in July in Cuenca, Spain. KNOCKvologan was supported when travelling to Spain, allowing them to represent Argyll’s creative industry internationally. 


‘KNOCKvologan, established in 2017, is a vibrant hub where people from near and far come together to celebrate island culture and environment through art, design, literature, theatre, film, and music. As a small art initiative, we were surprised by how the Spanish Ministry of Culture discovered us; our connection came from participating in the 'UK Green Guide, Creative Responses to Sustainability' in 2021. We were invited to contribute due to our Green Art Lab Alliance (GALA) membership. Later, I learned that the Spanish Government used several European Green Guides as a basis for their European Rural Cultural Map. This serves as a good example of how international opportunities can emerge from national connections.

The subtitle of the Forum, 'continuities and discontinuities in rural development,' has led me to contemplate how development can be viewed as a journey of learning and un-learning. As I travelled to Spain, I pondered over the idea that development should not be confined to mere accumulation; rather, it should encompass a transformative process akin to metamorphosis. And such transformation should emerge from within rather than being dictated from outside.

At the forum, there was much talk about common and problematic misconceptions. From the city, the countryside can seem bleak and underdeveloped. But those who inhabit rural areas know they are full of life, vibrant communities, unique character, and rich culture.

On the last day of the Forum, I spoke with three of the organisers. We discussed cultural connections between the northwest of Spain (Galicia and Asturias) and Scotland and what it would take to develop a similar program in Scotland. This sixth Forum was a massive operation, but they told me that it all started very small six years ago and that starting small is the way to go. They offered their help with any first step.

I think initiating a similar symposium or forum in Scotland would be valuable; all of the issues that were addressed in Cuenca are very relevant to rural Scotland. Indeed, we could start small and draw on practices and networks that are available to us. We could involve local and national artists, universities and a number of international guests.’ 

Rutger Emmelkamp