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Mission of the European Festivals Association

The aim of the European Festivals Association is to support festivals, promote festivals’ significance and their important role in international cultural cooperation and societies today. Therefore, EFA seeks primarily to

  • coordinate the efforts of its members;
  • facilitate cooperation and co-production;
  • set common policy;
  • promote multidisciplinary tendencies;
  • underline the state of art in society;
  • act prominently in the wider political debate.

Joining forces, pooling strengths:
Mission Statement by EFA President Darko Brlek

Ljubljana, Slovenia, April 2013, at the occasion of the 2013 EFA General Assembly that re-elected President Darko Brlek for a third term (2005-2017)

Dear colleagues,

The Ljubljana Festival joined the European Festivals Association (EFA) in 1977 and personally I started getting involved in 1992. Since then, I have seen the Association grow (in terms of numbers and diversity) and develop (in terms of its reach and activities). Thanks to the vision of the EFA Board and the Secretary Generals, EFA has become a modern network of more than 100 members, implementing numerous activities (artistic, educational, political), and maintaining strong connections with the EU and its Culture Commissioner. While acting at a global level, EFA retains local meaning: being a member of EFA has increased and does still increase our credibility in our local situations.

Since my first steps in the Association, I have been aware of the benefits and the importance of a network like EFA, and soon became eager to be more and more involved. I was elected EFA President in 2005 and would like to thank all EFA members for their continuous trust.

Looking back on eight years as President, I am delighted about the close collaboration with members and partners in the cultural and political sectors worldwide. I would like to point out some highlights that have been key to me over these years:

  • increased membership to 109 European and non-European festivals today;
  • increased member countries to 44 countries today, including all areas of Europe, South Africa, Mexico, South Korea, Russia, etc.;
  • increased number of artistic disciplines represented including music, dance, theatre and more;
  • strengthened involvement of national festival networks jointly representing 2,000 festivals;
  • heightened visibility at European policy level since the move to Ghent in 2004 and since the establishment of the Brussels based European House for Culture, which brings the voice of festivals to EU decision makers;
  • heightened visibility of communication thanks to a good balance of “traditional” and “new” technologies, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the EFA blog Festival Bytes etc. providing a continuous flow of information to EFA members, the broader public and the media, resulting in greater visibility for EFA members and their activities;
  • enhanced outreach thanks to partnerships and joint development of festival networks across the world, such as the African Festival Network AFRIFESTNET, the Association of Asian Performing Arts Festivals AAPAF, and the festival network in the Arab world FESTARAB;
  • development of activities, such as the Atelier for Young Festival Managers (2006), the EFA BOOKS series (2006), the European House for Culture (2008), or The Festival Academy (2012), which led to new networks under the umbrella of EFA;
  • a high number of meeting and networking formats each year, such as conferences, working group, interest group and roundtable meetings with the EU Culture Commissioner, make the Association a living platform for you;
  • a good financial sustainability with extra income by various public authorities for additional activities;
  • a highly professional Secretariat providing services to members on a daily basis.

With members in 44 countries, EFA fosters an understanding of a European dimension. EFA brings together more and more festivals which have an important influence on the cultural image as well as on the social situation of their own environments. Festivals are the first to reveal changes in society, holding up a mirror to reveal the transformation.

Of course, there is “still so much to be done,” as Denis de Rougemont said. That is why I decided to offer my candidacy for President of the European Festivals Association once more. With this letter, I would like to outline my ambition and ask you for your support to continue the important steps we have taken over the past years.

My keywords and my mission for the next four years are: sustainability, international cooperation, artistic endeavour and rejuvenation.

In terms of membership development, many new festivals in the Eastern European countries outside of the EU borders reconnected with their peers in Western Europe thanks to EFA and started organising themselves at national level with EFA as a model, such as the Serbian Festivals Association. This is the way we have to proceed!

An increased diversity of arts genres represented ensures an artistic exchange and development at highest level. I am glad that more disciplines are represented, i.e. through many other major European festivals that rejoined EFA, such as the Aix-en-Provence Festival, the Reykjavik Arts Festival, or the Edinburgh International Festival that keep acting as a strong partners; or through theatre festivals, such as the Tbilisi International Theatre Festival and the European Festival of Performing Arts Timisoara. The task for the future is clear: we need diversity and we have to continue cross-disciplinary exchanges.

Thanks to a global approach EFA today reaches out as far as Israel, Lebanon, Russia, South Korea, Mexico, and, since 2012, also to South Africa, with the major arts festival in Africa, the National Arts Festival Grahamstown. There is a lot to be discovered and EFA has to deepen its connections and enhance insight into the festival sector worldwide.

Due to its dedication to the next generation of festival managers EFA ensures a constant reinvention and rejuvenation. Beirut, Lebanon, Edinburg, UK and Kampala, Uganda are on the agenda of the Atelier for Young Festival Managers in the next years. In the past years, we have proudly watched the success of European and EU projects such as the Atelier which also enjoy collaborations beyond membership level.

We have established EFA as a recognised representative network of arts festivals in Europe and beyond thanks to a continuously professional work.

Against this background, my mission is to continue this successful work and keep EFA as the place for festivals to exchange with driven people and to develop new ideas; I want EFA to be a sounding board where festivals can test artistic approaches.

Of course, we should not overlook current challenges: Today, as we all know well, it is more and more challenging to run a high quality, active, and efficient network of festivals. All around us, all sorts of festivals pop up. The cultural offer overwhelms people. Often, the immediate turnover of festivals is the primary interest of supporters; all they look at are facts and figures, numbers of audiences and tickets sold. Too often the economic impact weighs much more than the artistic quality and the sustainable, long-term impact of festivals on the artistic development of a place and the well-being of people. I belief that festivals all around Europe and beyond need to join forces in addressing public authorities and in convincing them about the added values of our activities beyond the mere economic one.

Looking at this particular challenge, I want EFA to be the place that assembles know-how about festivals, a place where new measurements for long-term impact of festivals on human beings are given visibility in exchange with artists, intellectuals and researchers. We have been successful before in fighting for good financial and political relations.

In times of cuts of budgets for culture, unstable political situations, social turmoil, anti-democratic tendencies, climate change and shrinking solidarity, it seems to me that we, as festivals with a strong commitment for an open, democratic society, need to continue to join forces and pool strengths. I am convinced that EFA will continue to be this platform where we can share concerns, a body that supports us in our local challenges and that helps us to act sustainably on a long term.

Reinvention is part of our own creative nature. If we continue to ask the right questions and find creative answers in challenging times, we will ensure that cultural activities will continue to play a meaningful part in reaching our common objectives. And I am sure every single festival agrees.

That is why I am urging for the European Festivals Association to continue to assume a leading role in four fields:

  1. artistic and cultural exchange and collaboration;
  2. training for the next generation of festival leaders;
  3. dialogue with policy makers; and,
  4. collaboration with colleagues across world.

This role can be realised thanks to a devoted work plan and a broad membership!

With these values and broader goals in mind, I am eager to continue the close collaboration with EFA members, with dedicated Vice Presidents and Board members, and with a committed Secretariat. Together with the EFA Board and the EFA Secretariat under Secretary General Kathrin Deventer, we have continuously revised and improved our activities to serve the evolving needs of EFA members. Based on recent achievements, my proposals for the next four years are:

  • to further diversify the Association, i.e. include more artistic disciplines, in particular dance and theatre festivals, and to convince ‘big old’ festivals to rejoin EFA;
  • to deepen members’ engagement, i.e. enhance involvement of current members in EFA’s activities, including the contribution of collective and affiliate members;
  • to further develop activities offer to EFA members, including communication tools (in particular the EFA website and interactive tools) as well as meeting and networking formats throughout the year (conferences, Ars Nova, co-production platforms);
  • to set up activities that provide strong input for better festival programmes, better know-how on trends, and better funding opportunities, reaching out also to non-EFA members;
  • to further develop existing and to launch new partnerships with organisations from the festival and cultural sectors worldwide, in particular deepen the relation with sister festival networks in Africa, Asia, the Arab world, as well as South and Latin America;
  • to further develop existing initiatives for young festival managers throughout the world such as the Festival Academy and the Atelier for Young Festival Managers;
  • to extend the EFA BOOKS series, launch new publication formats (EFA BOOKLETS), and develop new initiatives assembling know-how in EFA’s Festival Knowledge Centre;
  • to continue to further the understanding of the impact of arts and festivals on society, in particular in close collaboration with the European House for Culture;
  • to continue and further the dialogue with political decision makers both at European, national and local levels in a joint communication and advocacy strategy;
  • to provide financial and personnel sustainability.

I am looking forward to continuing working together with all members and partners of the European Festivals Association to ensure future successes of our Association.

I would like to thank all colleagues for their passion, commitment and trust.

Darko Brlek
EFA President


Related links:

European Festivals Association (EFA)
Kleine Gentstraat 46, B-9051 Gent, Belgium
T: +32 9 241 8080 F: +32 9 241 8089 -