10 years have passed and it is worth remembering the legacy that Eduard Delgado (1949-2004) left to those of us who were his students, but also to the younger generations that without knowing it, are still absorbing his teachings. He was and still is a reference name in the field of cultural management in Catalonia, Spain, Europe and Latin America.
Eduard was no ordinary man. He was an exceptional cultural promoter, a deep-rooted cosmopolitan with a vision that took us far ahead and possessed a structured and charming discourse. He had an irresistible, emphatic personality; personal and honest. He didn’t live long but made use of his enormous energy and the wisdom accumulated during his trips to Europe and Latin America made to build bridges and promote talent. Forming links between the everyday life of a neighbourhood (he was very proud of his neighbourhood, the old villa of Gracia) and the experiences that he observed outside, creating bridges between cultural activism, institutional action, field work observation and the academic meditation.
With a formal education in history and a great interest in communication, Delgado travelled to London in his younger years and permeated the social, cultural and political movements of the time. In a time where Catalonia still had an important influence from the Francophone tradition, his intuition and Latin passion became drenched in the British criticality. While studying anthropology and arts education he worked in different projects of his own and also for the BBC. He came back to Barcelona with a different view, convinced that the cultural development of a territory could not be isolated from the international movements and could not remain constrained by tradition. He became part of the local public office after the first democratic elections, influencing on the policies of cultural decentralization and the model of the civic centres of Barcelona. Soon after, he entered the team of culture at the Barcelona city government. Also, being conscious of the importance of sharing thoughts and knowledge among cultural agents, he advocated for the series of cultural management seminars from the Centre d’estudis de cultura i participació (CERC-Centre for the Studies of Culture and Participation). This experience led him to organize the first edition of Interacció 1984, origin to the educational program of CERC beginning the following year. This would become his most significant platform and tool to influence on policy models and cultural management at a Catalonian and Spanish state level.
Parallel to this, he developed a long trajectory of consulting and collaboration with the European Council and the UNESCO. He used this opportunity to serve as an ambassador for many of the most interesting initiatives and cultural strategies in the Old World. He also influenced in the analysis, the discourse and the political declarations promoted by these international organizations, always committed to the minorities. His interest focused fundamentally in regional and local environments, participating in the drafting of the Declaration of Bremen about municipal cultural policies, or as part of the coordinating team in the program for Cultures and Regions of Europe. The privileged relationship with the European Council led him to accept an offer to work in the Division of Cultural Policy and Action of the European Council for two years in Strasbourg. Along with Ritva Mitchell and the aid of Gabriele Mazza and Raymond Webber, he embarked on a unique adventure following the institutional transitions in culture and politics in Central and Eastern Europe after the Berlin wall came down. Coming back from this experience, he deposited all his energy into starting the Interarts Foundation, a European observatory for urban and regional cultural policies, as he was convinced that to be able to generate a good analysis and discourse, freedom and transversal views were needed (something that was not being provided by the governments). This last era took him to explore new connections between Europe and Latin America, and to mobilize European networks to obtain projects as the cultural field became stronger in the European Union.
My relationship with Eduard began in the mid 80’s, when he had just founded CERC and I was a young researcher interested in understanding the world of culture. He left an enormous mark on my professional development. His generosity opening up physical and conceptual boundaries, proposing projects and sharing networks was fantastic. He made me take risks and break free of stereotypes when I accompanied him, and even fill in for him, at international seminars, which helped me grow and gain confidence.
In the wake of Quim Franch, and along Alfons Martinell, Esteve Leon, Xavier Marcé and Eduard Miralles, we undertook the journey of starting the Masters program in cultural management, concluding the education program that he had initiated a few years earlier at CERC. He had an immense capacity to work and multitask (I don’t know what he would have done with all the new technologies we have today!) He could be reading or writing a report, write an ironic poem and make a fundamental intervention to change the topic of any conversation, all without much apparent effort. Even though he was not an easy person and being able to follow him was complex, his capacity for work, for being everywhere at the same time, for seducing (sometimes not quite genuinely), and his eye for working with the best partners, saved his sporadic chaos and the material precariousness he was not afraid to work in.
What would he say to us today? In the midst of his intellectual life, observing the complex social, political and cultural transformations? I am sure he would get deeply involved, he would not stay quiet, he would find resources and would makes us re-value the critical aspect of our personal and collective involvement with the cultural and political development of our society and this world. At a moment in time where we debate about the creative dimension of the cultural manager, he was truly a great cultural creator.