The most resonating whispers of the Oracle of Amsterdam


Many moving and thought-provoking insights, moments, thoughts and ideas – “whispers” for the future actions – were shared at the Oracle of Amsterdam conference, a European event held on 28th of June in the Tolhuistuin cultural complex in Amsterdam.


The conference plenaries and workshops revealed a treasure of ideas, statements, examples, plans and visions.
This was of course what was hoped for, from such a broad range of professionals and volunteers from diverse European cities, different backgrounds and expertise, who gathered to share their experiences, dreams and thoughts on the topics of oral history, (cultural) co-creation and cultural participation of refugees in European cities.


The different sessions that took place during this one-day conference were actually designed to inspire them to come up with challenging ideas, plans and projects. At the Opening Plenary, the European Refugees’ Oral History Project Specially Unknown was presented as a live magazine, in which all European partners of the project – from Antwerp, Bochum, Paris, Turin and Amsterdam – took the stage. In turns they gave the preliminary analysis of the first 40 interviews with refugees, demonstrated the technique and the meaning of conducting an interview from the perspective of an interviewer, sketched the process of co-creation in their city, danced, sung, or power-point presented the somewhat surprising first answers of the Delphi research on cultural participation.


After that, in the two rounds of seven parallel workshops, the three main topics of the conference – life stories of refugees; co-creation with refugees and their cultural participation in EU cities – were approached from various angles and roles: from the perspective of practical doers, wise thinkers and abundant dreamers. At the end, all workshops presented the ideas and experiences in a creative way at the Closing Plenary. In this plenary the participants also announced personal plans for the future.


This led to quotes like:

“Storytelling is important. Stories make up, but also brake up societies”


“Refugees have a lot to say. They are not voiceless, they already have a voice, but not always a possibility to express themselves.”


“Overcome “refugee-ness” – consider people as citizens instead of refugees, focus on skills and what people know and can do, not on the refugee status


“Change the narrative – not the protagonists”


“Create “diversitude” – the ability to work together with people with different backgrounds and to ensure that different talents are acknowledged”


And yet, although the competition for the title of the most resonating whisper was tough, it was absolutely clear that there were two “whispers” that were repeated the most during the whole day.


These were: “Being a refugee is not my identity, but an experience” and “Stories become narratives, and narratives become politics”.


The first insight can be classified as the most touching “personal whisper”, it resonated on an emotional and personal level with all present, not only the refugees amongst them. It had been shared by Domenica Ghidei Biidu, human rights lawyer, Member of the EU Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, and herself a refugee, during her opening statement in which she talked about her personal connection to the themes of the conference.


The other one is a more “political whisper”, not because it was shared by Ron Venderbosch, director of participation of the City of Amsterdam, but because it confirmed and testified the vital importance of life stories of refugees for the future policies of EU cities.


Interested in other outcomes of the conference? Here is the full report




Links to the other articles of the 4th newsletter: