Community participation in the arts celebrated in 95th anniversary year of Cuban radio

UNESCO Havana joined in on World Radio Day in Cuba on 13 February to discuss community participation in radio production and explore how radio can be more responsive to citizens’ needs and cultural diversity.

“Radio is very important in Cuba, particularly provincial and community radio for encouraging local dialogue. Of the 96 radio stations in the national network, some 40 have a municipal scope,” said Elena Nápoles Rodriguez, Programme Officer at UNESCO Regional Bureau for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean. “And the level of participation from citizens this year has been most encouraging, as Cuba is involved in a UNESCO media participation project and another aimed at reinforcing the market for its rich diversity of cultural expressions.”

UNESCO Havana Office joined discussions in this year’s World Radio Day in Eastern Cuban town of Las Tunas, through the provincial Radio Victoria, during which experts, journalists and local people exchanged ideas about cultural diversity and community engagement during a programme called “Hablemos de…” (Let’s talk about).

The Listeners’ Club of Radio Libertad, a community radio, was particularly vocal in their testimonies on how radio has shaped their lives and how important it is to involve local artistic talent in radio programming. As one local guitarist put it: “I don´t need to record at any music studio to promote the music I create for the community. Radio Libertad has given me the chance to share my music right here!”

Let’s talk about culture and participation

Cuba’s contemporary creative scene is burgeoning. With its long history of music performances, an audio-visual sector beginning to open up, and documentary and feature film production growing, there is a clear need for creative professionals to find new ways in promoting their work. The Havana Biennale, Haban-Arte, is one way through promoting innovative and experimental work from local artists.

The Cuban government and civil society groups recently engaged in a UNESCO project to reinforce its capacity to promote contemporary culture. Through the Swedish government funded project “enhancing fundamental freedoms through the promotion and the diversity of cultural expressions”, the Cuban government and civil society actors took stock of policies. They aim to improve  access to digital technologies to further benefit from the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression.

An active Party to the 2005 Convention, Cuba has benefitted twice from the funding from the International Fund for Cultural Diversity: once in collaboration with Fundación del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano to survey audiovisual production and through another project promoting social cohesion via Afro-Cuban cultural expressions.

Radio’s continuing legacy

In total, five municipal radios participated in World Radio Day in Las Tunas, with UNESCO colleagues. In recent months, these stations - Radio Maboas, Radio Cabaniguan, Radio Chaparra, Radio Manatí and Radio Libertad - were involved in a UNESCO-run project through the International Program for the Development of Communication, aimed at boosting the participation of women in radio.

On August 22, Cuba will celebrate the 95thanniversary of broadcast radio on the island - one of the first countries in Latin America to have introduced that technology and created the vital forum for community participation that is still relevant today.

Original photo can be found here.