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The Delegation of the European Union in collaboration with the Embassies of Netherlands, Germany, and Italy, as well as the British Council hosted the 2019 edition of Living Heritage with a one-day conference on "Valuing Cultural Heritage: A Cross-Cultural Perspective" on 25 March 2019 with Her Worship the Mayor of Colombo Rosy Senanayake as the Guest of Honour.
The conference held at the iconic Galle Face Hotel was preceded by guided site visits to places of historical and cultural importance in Colombo and its surroundings, such as Fort, Pettah, Kochchikade, Mutwal, and Dehiwala. All Living Heritage events were free-of-charge and open to the public.
Speaking to at the opening of the conference, Ambassador of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, H.E. Tung-Lai Margue said, " Living Heritage is a forum which brings together all those interested in looking at cultural heritage as a resource for the future, to be safeguarded, enhanced and promoted by encouraging synergies with contemporary creations. Raising awareness and stimulating participation in cultural heritage activities remains a challenge, therefore education is key. Schools and universities have a key role to play in sensitising the young on the value of their cultural heritage, tangible and intangible."
Addressing the gathering Mayor Rosy Senanayake said, "As the Mayor of Colombo, I welcome this initiative with open arms. The city of Colombo has a lot of heritage to celebrate, to appreciate and to learn from. I have always been determined not to fall into the practice of paying less attention to areas, such as arts and culture, due to the other pressing needs the city has. Yes, I must prioritise other activities at times, but my commitment to preserving and fostering culture and heritage of this city is clear and unwavering, and I offer the fullest support of the Colombo Municipal Council to the efforts of Living Heritage".
Speakers from Europe and South Asia, including art historians, architects, and urbanists addressed a number of key issues, such as how to regenerate cities through cultural heritage, how to promote smart restoration and adaptive reuse of heritage buildings, as well as how to make cultural tourism sustainable and compatible with natural heritage.
The initiative, the third in a series launched in 2016, attracted a very diverse audience including architects, designers, historians, art historians, students and teachers among others. The diversity in the room reflected in itself the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach when looking at cultural heritage.
This conversation will continue and further build bridges between Sri Lanka and Europe in an exchange of best practices.