Places of memory, places of creation – Centres culturel de rencontre first appeared in France in 1972, based on six emblematic monuments. The initiative received the support of Jacques Duhamel and Jacques Rigaud. The label ‘Centre culturel de rencontre’ (CCR) has thus come to mark out a project which is artistic, cultural or intellectual, working in synergy with a major heritage site. These sites put themselves at the service of creation, transmission, research and innovation, drawing a direct link between varied audiences and territories.

Created in January 1973 to stimulate and coordinate the activities of these Centres, the Association des Centres culturels de rencontre (ACCR) was recognised as a registered charity in 1983. It began straight away to focus on its national and international development. The European Charter for Cultural centres in historic monuments was adopted in Dublin in 1991, with the aim of uniting places, projects, artists and other cultural players working with a single ambition: to develop a contemporary cultural project based within a historic monument which has lost its primary use.

In France, 1992 saw the Charter of the Centre culturel de rencontre countersigned by Jack Lang, the then Minister of Culture. In 1996 the National Commission of Centres culturel de rencontre  was created, under the aegis of the Minister of Culture. Finally, in 1998 the Circulaire Trautmann (Trautmann Circular) reinforced the original positioning of Centres culturel de rencontre in public policy, and the role of the ACCR. The Orientation Council was created in 2001 with the aim of bringing together within the same informal governance structure the activities of French (historically the most numerous), European and international members.

The ACCR has developed a mainly rural network which currently comprises 15 members in France, 27 in the rest of Europe and 5 from other parts of the world.

The European Network of cultural centres in historic monuments was formed in Dublin in 1991 on the initiative of the Association des Centres culturels de rencontre (ACCR). Today it brings together 45 centres spread over 15 European countries, and is growing rapidly. The objective of the network is to enable European cooperation in the reutilisation of heritage sites by artists and researchers. The network, drawing on the experience and the organisation of the ACCR, has broadened the scope of thought to acquire, through a much more diverse shared knowledge base, a true European expertise on this subject.

The network thus allows its members to tackle with full legitimacy questions of development in regions where this system is still little known, and to be considered by the European Union and the Council of Europe as a representative on these issues. The network is a founder member (and since 2010 sits on the Executive Committee) of Culture Action Europe. In this role, it took part in the development of the heritage programme of the European Union (Raphaël) and the preparation of Culture 2000, and is currently engaged in discussions regarding the new generation of the EU Culture Programme 2014-2020 and the promotion of the European Agenda for Culture.

Since 2010 the ACCR and its members have changed, conscious of evolving European, national and local cultural policies, economic developments and strategic positions in Europe and the rest of the world. The ACCR is engaged in a process of redefining the values which will revitalise its communications (incorporating advances in participation) in the coordination of services and resource-sharing amongst members. In addition, convinced that the label ‘Centre culturel de rencontre’ is a label with a future at a moment of territorial and cultural changes, the ACCR intends to make it an essential element in national and European policy-making.

Its own international development is one of the priorities of the ACCR. It coordinates the European Network of cultural centres in historic monuments, and is a resource hub for the cultural re-use of heritage sites. It collaborates with project leaders and organisations interested in the Centres culturel de rencontre. It is active in Europe and internationally through its presence in European authorities and networks (Civil Society Platform ‘Access to Culture’, the executive committee of Culture Action Europe of which it is a founder member, Icomos and Culture Mondo). It has also established a bridge between its members and European policies, and coordinates the residencies programmes ‘Odyssée’ and  ‘Haïti’ (which enable foreign artists to be welcomed within French Centres culturel de rencontre) and the Overseas Artists Residencies 2011.

Amongst its development plans for the future are an enlargement of the network and the creation of a dialogue between territories, especially rural ones. The ACCR also intends to have a stronger international presence, notably in Asia, an active collaboration with other European networks, to act as an advocate for the values associated with the label and for the Centres culturel de rencontre themselves, and a proactive coordination of expertise and need.