2nd April 2022

A conference organised by Ruskin’s Guild of St George to share up-to-date knowledge of the pressures on the city and lagoon of Venice and to reflect on how these pressures can be addressed

A one-day online free public conference in English addressed to everyone who cares about the future of Venice

We have identified five key topics, as follows:

(i)  stewardship of the eco-system and waters of the lagoon

(ii) empowering the diverse communities who live in Venice

(iii) encouraging the creative energies of Venice’s writers, artists, craftspeople, conservators and musicians as a way of providing sustainable livelihoods for the present and future

(iv) seeking new directions for tourism, so that the city is no longer drowning in ‘over-tourism’ and an excessive dependence on tourist-dominated businesses

(v) Protecting, enhancing and sharing Venice’s exceptional cultural heritage as a World Heritage Site

The conference will run from 9am until 6pm, with breaks throughout the day. We invite attendees to log-on via zoom no later than 8.45am (UK time). A whole day by Zoom can be exhausting. The conference has been organised so that necessary introductions and two of the topics will be presented in the morning. The remaining three topics will be presented in the afternoon. Please feel free to book for whole day and then dip in and out as feels most appropriate for you. We have sought to provide ample opportunities for questions and debate.

Peter Burman, Conference Chair and Guild Director responsible for International Relationships, believes that (to quote William Morris) Salvatore Settis’s book If Venice Dies is ‘one of the very few necessary and inevitable utterances’ of our time: ‘The future of the historical city is a vast topic being played out not just in Venice or Italy, but in the rest of the world too, and Venice … can be taken as its supreme symbol. With each passing day it becomes increasingly urgent to ask oneself how every city can mould its symbolic capital with its citizens’ civic capital to put this to fruitful use. If this should happen in Venice, it could happen anywhere else.’ One of the enemies of such progress is the degree of public corruption everywhere. Salvatore Settis observes: ‘All over the world, and not just in Venice, historic cities are being emptied out while their institutions give priority to tourist monocultures and hikes in real estate prices, unleashing a form of ethnic cleansing that is banishing the young and the poor from their cities.’ 

Peter Burman also acknowledges the vision and work being carried out by the numerous independent organisations in Venice which include Gioventù del III Millennio (who distributed food to the vulnerable during the pandemic); La Venessiana (slow travel, gardens and food); No Grandi Navi (campaigning against the cruise-liners); Ocio (concerned about the public housing stock); Save Venice Inc (the leading American not-for-profit organisation dedicated to preserving the artistic heritage of Venice); Venice Calls (dedicated to the removal of plastic waste from the waters and shorelines of the lagoon); We Are Here Venice (which addresses Venice’s challenges as a living city and advocates for evidence-based approaches to policy making). The Winter 2021 Newsletter of Venice in Peril puts the dangers to Venice very succinctly: ‘Threatened by depopulation, rising sea-levels and the strangling effect of mass tourism, Venice faces daunting problems that endanger the very identity of the city as a social community.’ (Dr Deborah Howard)  



Full conference programme




The conference link will be open from 08:30 onwards, UK time: please check in by 08.45.
8.55 Introductory notices from Simon Seligman, Communications Officer, Ruskin’s Guild of St George.

09:00 Conference opening

Welcome by Rachel Dickinson, Master of the Guild of St George.
Introduction by the Conference Chair, Peter Burman, Guild Director with responsibility for International Relationships.
Presentation by Kathleen Ann Gonzalez, editor of Venice Rising – Aqua Granda, Pandemic, Rebirth (Ca’ Spechio, San Jose, 2020).

09:30 Topic 1: The vital importance of the Venetian Lagoon

Lead speaker: Jane Da Mosto, ecological scientist, Co-Founder and Director of the NGO We Are Here Venice.
Maria Laura Picchio Forlati: Will Venice, or What Venice, survive the rising level of the lagoon by the end of this century? A discussion of the appeal from the Istituto Veneto di scienze lettere ed arti to Prime Minister Draghi (Il giornale dell’arte, November 2021, No. 422, pp. 19-26). Read this document HERE
Comments, questions and discussion.

11:00 — Coffee break 

11:15 Topic 2: Breaking the mould: new directions for tourism

Lead speaker: Jan van der Borg, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.
Two supporting Voices from Venice:
 • Monica Cesarato, How to visit Venice – or – We need to educate visitors.
 • Luisella Romeo, When a door closes, a window opens: live tours in Venice during the pandemic lockdowns.
Comments, questions and discussion

12:30 Topic 3: Keynote speaker

Salvatore Settis, art historian and commentator on Venice’s future, will reflect on the impact of his ground-breaking book If Venice Dies (2016) and on what could lie ahead.
Comments and discussion.

13:00 — Lunch break

13:30 Topic 4: Encouraging Venice’s creative communities

Lead speaker: Rosella Mamoli Zorzi.
Three Voices of Venice talking about their own creative work:
 • Graziella Giusto, artist (Graziella will be speaking in Italian – a text translation in English is available in advance of the Conference HERE and will be shared on the day via the zoom 'chat').

• Déirdre Kelly, artist//curator, Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, Venezia

• Gregory Dowling, author, translator, literary critic, lecturer and Professor of Anglo-American Literature

There will then be a showing of Emanuele Confortin’s outstanding film Paradiso.
Opportunity for comments, questions and discussion.

15:15 — Tea break 

15:30 Topic 5: The politics of Venice and how to harness them

Two contrasting Voices from Venice:
• Neal E. Robbins, Moving beyond the political quagmire – politics in Venice, origins and dynamics, how historic Venice is up against the terraferma/island divide, populism, depopulation and a corrosive political culture.
• Tommaso Cacciari, principal spokesman for No Grandi Navi.
Comments and discussion.

16:30 — Tea break 

16:45 Topic 6: Protecting and sharing Venice’s cultural heritage

A final inspirational talk by Francesco Bandarin, former Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Office.

Concluding opportunity for comments and discussion – what have we achieved by weaving together
these Voices from Venice? Where do we go from here?

17:45 Closing act of the Conference
Including invitation for feedback and further ideas.

Please note that while we will endeavour to follow the timings as closely as possible, out of consideration for delegates
joining from different countries or wishing to catch particular contributions, the nature of Zoom meetings is that
sometimes the unexpected occurs. We have very competent technical support but it is just possible that slight problems
may arise beyond our control.

Speaker biographies

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