A close up image of a pair of hands, which are now a deep dark blue from working with natural dyes as part of the weaving process.
Crafting Futures in the Silalang sub-district near Pua, Thailand. This area is surrounded by forested mountains which provide communities and women artisans with the source materials for their natural dyes.  ©

Simon Mills

Join the conversation on culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

BSL interpreted and captioned

  • Are you interested in the role of culture and heritage for social, economic and environmental development in the UK and globally? 
  • Are you working on projects that reduce inequalities, and would you like to learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals?
  • Do you have expertise to share on measuring impact and effecting change? 

The Missing Pillar Talks is a series of panel conversations about culture’s contribution to sustainable development. We began by looking through a heritage lens on 29th March with 'Heritage and sustainable development: learning from the past, shaping the future'. Next, we will focus on the role of people, organisations, and places in ‘Working together – culture, place and partnership for sustainable development’ in May. Follow the Talks online and add your voice to the conversation using the hashtag #TheMissingPillar.

The Missing Pillar Talks are brought to you by the British Council in partnership with the United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO and the Culture Committee of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). The first talk on heritage and sustainable development was part of the three day event Heritage of Future Past

Working together – culture, place and partnership, May 2021

Working together – culture, place and partnership for sustainable development 
May 2021, date to be confirmed

In this Missing Pillar Talk we focus in on questions about how people, organisations and supporters can work together in pursuit of sustainable development through culture: from grass roots to policy to place. Where are we going, who plays what role, and what actions can be taken?

Watch this space for more information.

Heritage and sustainable development, 29th March at 2pm

Heritage and sustainable development – learning from the past, shaping the future
2pm to 3.30pm BST on Monday 29th March 2021

In this Missing Pillar Talk we focused on sustainable development through a heritage lens, looking at current thinking and practice, inclusive and holistic approaches, Covid-19 recovery and climate action.  


  • Stephen Stenning – Head, Arts and Society, British Council 
  • Henry McGhie – Henry runs the museum consultancy Curating Tomorrow, working on sustainability issues, including the SDGs, climate action and biodiversity conservation.  
  • Aindrea Emelife – Aindrea is a 27-year-old art historian, writer, independent curator, author and presenter from London. Aindrea is part of the new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm and is working on two upcoming books: A Little History of Public Art and Art Can Change the World: A Manifesto.  
  • Helen Maclagan OBE – Helen is the outgoing Non Executive Director for Culture at the UK National Commission for UNESCO, with a particular interest in the role of Culture in Sustainability. She was lead for the UKNC Board on the recent conference Heritage for Our Sustainable Future.
  • George Harris –  George is a freelance creative producer in Outdoor Arts and Co-Director of Tin Shed Theatre Company in Wales.  

with guest breakout facilitator 

  • Kate Pugh OBE FSA – Kate has recently been appointed as Non Executive Director for Culture at the UK National Commission for UNESCO. She is also the Chair of the Cultural Protection Fund Advisory Board.

By heritage, we refer to the broadest definition of heritage, encompassing tangible and intangible: the natural environment, sites and monuments, cultural and artistic practice, place and communities, and cultural narratives. After each talk, everyone was invited to join smaller breakout rooms to go deeper into topics and discuss questions raised through the events.
Did you miss the live event? Watch this space for the event recording, which will be available to soon.

Heritage breakout rooms

  • Stories told through research, impact and evidence with Kate Pugh, UK National Commission for UNESCO
  • Climate change: what’s heritage got to do with it? With Henry McGhie, Curating Tomorrow
  • Inclusive approaches to heritage with George Harris and Aindrea Emelife 

About the talks – what to expect and how to join in

How can I book a place? 
Tickets will soon be available for Working together – culture, place and partnership. The talks are free, but capacity is limited. We recommend that you sign up in advance to be sure of a place. When you register, we’ll ask you some questions to ensure you get the most out of the event. We’ll also ask you to choose a breakout room.  

What is the format of the talks? 
Each talk includes a one hour panel conversation followed by a 30 minute, interactive group breakout discussion. They take place on Zoom.  

Are the talks interactive and how can I ask questions?  
You can share links to your projects when you register to the event. You will be able to send comments and questions to the panel during the talk, which will be picked up by a moderator. The breakout rooms are interactive spaces, and you are welcome to ask questions and share comments via the chat and/or audio if you would like to. 

BSL and captioning 
Each panel conversation will be captioned in English and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted. For any of the breakouts you can request BSL interpretation by emailing cultureanddevelopment@britishcouncil.org.

I have a question that isn't answered here. Who can I contact?  
Contact the Culture and Development team via cultureanddevelopment@britishcouncil.org.

Why culture and why the Sustainable Development Goals?

Why culture and why the Sustainable Development Goals? 

The United Nations Agenda 2030 sets out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for all 193 members (including the UK) to meet by 2030. They are interconnected and promote the interests of people, planet and prosperity, supported by peace and justice, and delivered in partnership, from SDG1 No Poverty through to SDG17 Partnerships for the Goals. The SDGs focus on the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development. Culture is the missing pillar: it is part of the solution and can make positive change reality. 

The Missing Pillar Talks respond to our recent report: The Missing Pillar – Culture’s Contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. They take forward its recommendations on advocacy, evidence and access, and will consider the gap between policy and the practice.Through each event, we will explore where these connections are being made, who the different stakeholders are, as well as where the opportunities lie for arts, heritage and culture to play a role in shaping a sustainable future, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The SDGs provide a framework that can support and enrich these sectors and encourage local action through shared global goals. 

See also