Aarhus, Denmark to Host 2019 European Leadership Summit

We’re excited to announce that we will host our sixth annual Burning Man European Leadership Summit (ELS) in beautiful Aarhus, Denmark from April 11 to 14, 2019! The Global Network team has been working with the Aarhus, Copenhagen, and greater Nordic Regional Groups to create an inspiring and memorable gathering.

Drawing 200 participants from across the European Burner community, Burning Man Project staff, and adjacent regions including Israel and South Africa, our annual summit both strengthens our international community and affords us the unique opportunity to showcase an exemplary creative and cultural hub to our ELS participants. Previous host communities include Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Stockholm, and Nantes, France.

Our goal for the ELS is to foster co-learning amongst cultural leaders from across Burning Man’s European Network. Participants will share their experiences, hard-won expertise, inspirations and challenges with one another. We also aim to share Burning Man’s ethos and cultural values with our local host community each year. On Saturday, April 13, Burning Man Project will host a day-long program at the world-renowned Dokk1 library, host of the Aarhus Mini Maker Faire, which will be free and open to the public.

Aarhus Burners have created a clubhouse called “The Habit-Breaking Palace” near Godsbanen. (Photo by Typhaine Sotes)

Why Aarhus?

We’ve been in conversation with our Aarhus Regional Contacts for many years about hosting something special there. The Aarhus Burners and wider community stand out in the network as having a radical approach to civic participation, urban planning, and cultural development, and we were looking for the right opportunity to share their ideas and unique city environment with the broader network. They also demonstrated commitment and vision in their presentation to the ELS 2018 participants.

Aarhus Co-RC Christian Dietrichsen looking out over the beach in Aarhus. This photo was taken when we were hatching plans for Aarhus Burns, back in the Summer of 2017. (Photo by Megs Rutigliano)

When Aarhus was announced as one of the 2017 European Capital[s] of Culture back in 2012, Aarhus co-RC Christian Dietrichsen was inspired to imagine what it could look like to apply the 10 Principles of Burning Man to city life in Aarhus. He began to dream up an urban Burn, akin to the wonderful weeklong Burning Man Week Stockholm in 2017.

After planning and working with groups across the city, the Aarhus crew orchestrated Aarhus Burns in 2018, a 100% co-created and participatory event. Through the hard work of the Aarhus Burners, many cultural organizations across the city know about Burning Man and the Global Network and are eager to contribute to the summit program. These efforts set the stage for what’s to come in April.

Aarhus Co-RC Lars Haahr. Lars also volunteers for Media Mecca in Black Rock City. (Photo by Megs Rutigliano)

Burning Man also featured prominently in an exhibition designed for the 2017 Capital of Culture initiative called “The Journey” at the Mosegaard Anthropological Museum, which took viewers through seven stages of human existence on seven continents from birth to death. Burning Man is featured in the segment on loss and includes footage of a woman at the Temple in Black Rock City grieving the loss of her son. As part of Burning Man’s Press Team at Media Mecca, Aarhus co-RC Lars Haahr served as a liaison with Danish filmmaker Christopher Boe and Zentropa Film during the planning and execution of their shoot onsite. ELS 2019 participants will have an opportunity to see the film and meet the producers.

As we co-create our summit content with participants and local organizations, we will use the set of five common Nordic values, articulated by the Nordic Council of Ministries, of Openness, Trust, Innovation, Sustainability, and Equality as points of departure for our conversations and learning tracks. We intend to share more updates about the program here in the Burning Man Journal.

Our Spaces and Places

Our Summit activities will take place in two cultural hubs in Aarhus, both of which serve as examples of urban revitalization.

Our main conference programming will be at Godsbanen, a cultural center and mixed-use art complex that would delight any Burner’s imagination. Godsbanen is supported by the city and provides a platform and the tools for artists and makers to realize their visions. It’s also home to many cultural organizations including the city’s jazz festival, a film festival, and many theater companies. Similar to last year’s summit site, which was built from an old shipyard in Nantes, Godsbanen is built in an old freight yard. These choices are intentional on our part as we see great value in using arts as a tool for urban redevelopment. Summit participants will learn from our hosts about the choices and strategies that informed the development of such a robust cultural resource for Aarhus residents.

Aarhus’s South Harbor, or “Sydhavnen,” is another example of urban revitalization. Dokk1, where we’ll host our Saturday public program, was part of the city’s redevelopment from an industrial harbor to a civic space. Many industrial spaces in the area have also been converted to cultural spaces, and participants will explore these together.

The view from inside of Dokk1, where we’ll host our public program on Saturday, April 13. (Photo by Typhaine Sotes)

ELS 2019 Theme: Radical City

As we explore these creative spaces in Aarhus, we’ll also explore the themes and philosophies that pave the way for creative activities. Our ELS 2019 Theme, Radical City, will invite participants to ask questions like: How does one go about creating the conditions to catalyze Radical Self-expression? How does participatory urban planning and urban design work? What do temporary cities like Black Rock City have to learn from permanent cities like Aarhus? And how might the principles of Black Rock City be applied to permanent cities to enable more creativity and participation?

Summit participants will be invited to submit their workshop and talk ideas related to the theme, Radical City. Likewise, Aarhus organization leaders will contribute their thoughts and approaches to this theme. Our conversations with groups like Kaospilot, Frontrunners, Institute for X, Worldperfect, and Erhverv Aarhus have inspired us tremendously, and we intend to share our learnings with you all as we ramp up to the ELS this April.

Inside Godsbanen. (Photo by Typhaine Sotes)


The ELS is intentionally designed to be a small gathering and is not open to the general public at this time. If you are a Burner from Europe and interested in participating in the ELS, please get in touch with your local Regional Contact.

We always welcome volunteers for the ELS. We typically rely on local volunteer teams but would welcome others to participate by filling key roles.

We’ll keep you updated on the Saturday public program and will be sure to post videos and blogs from the summit!

Top photo: Aarhus’ South Harbor, Sydhavnen (Photo by Typhaine Sotes)

About the author: Megs Rutigliano

Megs Rutigliano

Meghan "Megs" Rutigliano is Burning Man's Associate Director of the Regional Network. She oversees Burning Man's annual Global Leadership Conference and European Leadership Summit. Meghan explores the art, events and culture of various regional Burning Man communities in her blog posts.

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