Case Study 1. “My home is here, in Tulun!”
Cultural practice as an instrument for purposeful development of a local area and its community.
Tulun is a town in the Irkutsk region (Eastern Siberia), founded in the early 18th century. Population – 41,671 people (2017). Located on the Trans-Siberian railway. Distance from Tulun to the regional center of Irkutsk – 391 km, to Moscow – 4,827 km.
The project was initiated by a local NGO “Tulun.ru”, operating in the region since 2005. In 2015, their project “A Country without Weekdays”, aimed at engaging young people in the preservation of local cultural heritage, was supported by the “The Cultural Mosaic” grant.
By 2016, this community of like-minded people had developed into a team and carried out the first strategic session with the working title “My home is here, in Tulun!”. They came together to formulate a shared vision and find new ways of supporting the town’s development. The project invited contributions from different community groups, local government, businesses, NPOs, cultural and educational institutions, and the mass media, which was key to its success.
The session identified the following local issues: outflow of young people from the area, unemployment, loss of cultural identity, and a sense of pride in the place. In 1992, there were 20 active enterprises and 54,000 residents in Tulun. In 2016, this number had dropped to 42,000 with only one core enterprise. Local identity largely related to personal stories of Tulun’s residents; – a long tradition in glass-making supported by the wealth of natural resources, in particular quartz sands, and clay; and the town’s location as a logistics hub on the Trans-Siberian.
“My home is here, in Tulun!” developed into is a partnership project, created to foster sustainable development of the area through cultural activities and collaboration with community groups. It germinated ideas for several projects:
- “The Glass Fairy-Tale of Tulun” (August 2017) – a revival of unique glass-working traditions in Tulun. A grant from the Foundation allowed for the purchase of the necessary equipment to set up a glass studio, train local artists in the fundamentals of glass fusing and hot enamelling, support the production of glass souvenirs, and hold a series of exhibitions.
- A tourist trail “The Tale of Tulun” (July 2017) – a unique itinerary that runs along 12 villages in the region, developed in conjunction with a history competition by the local museum and community groups.
- “Tulun stories” (September 2016 – June 2017) - a television project, delivered by a local educational TV studio “Tulun.ru”. Broadcast 18 fifteen-minute TV programmes and 90 features on Tulun, its residents and local events.
- “Oxygen: street art and new local meanings” (September 2017) – a visual representation of the town’s cultural symbols and narratives in public spaces. Co-funded by the municipal government.
- “Tulun, my childhood town” (September 2017) – a calendar featuring key dates and events from the history of Tulun since its foundation, compiled by local historians, ethnographers, and museum specialists. Successful launch of a municipal folk festival “Golden Gates”. An interactive walking tour, “Merchant Tulun”, is currently under development.
The project has evolved into a hub for social activity in the region, connecting various partners, local residents, and community groups. The team has turned a one-off initiative into a strategic programme, building an effective network of partners committed to a shared agenda of change and long-term development of Tulun.
Project director of “Tulun.ru”, a local non-profit agency for the support of youth engagement through social projects and creative industries.