19 events this week
Quote of the Week
“A festival is a unique occasion for meeting different people and different cultures. Together with artists who are real masters of communication through art, a festival is a strong builder of bridges between different cultures - and even between civilizations."
Ján Figel’, former European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture, and Youth
Positive Impulses: Arts Management Network publishes article on EFA Jubilee
Gent, Monday, 11-06-2012
“In times of crisis, is the art sector the last paradise?” asks Dirk Heinze, Editor-in-Chief of the Arts Management Network: “Yes and no. Yes, because the arts and creative sector is a value on its own, and a driving force for the growth of regions and countries. No, because many cultural institutions come under economic pressure so far.” The latest edition of the network’s magazine explores “Positive Impulses” for the future and includes an exclusive report by Kathrin Deventer, Secretary General of the European Festivals Association (EFA), and Kerstin Schilling, Cultural Manager, on EFA’s recent 60th anniversary celebrations in Bergen.
May Sunshine, Fjords, and Jubilees - the European Festivals Association‘s Assembly in Bergen
Visitors to Bergen are won over instantly by the Norwegian city’s large and natural fjord harbour and Bryggen, its old harbour front area. Travel guides recommend weatherproof clothes regardless of the season, since up to 250 days of rain per year qualify Bergen as Europe’s ‘Rainiest Capital’.
All the more unusual then, to arrive in May well prepared and to experience four days full of sunshine and temperatures of 25 degrees. Suspicion nearly arises – did the Bergen International Festival or even the European Festivals Association (EFA) have something to do with it? In addition to visitors from all corners of the globe, the annual conference was attended by the Norwegian royal couple. They received a celebratory welcome with Stefan Herheim’s ‘Xerxes’, performed by the Komische Oper Berlin. 180 international festival managers alighted the Fløyen Hill to collectively send yellow balloons into the summer sky, along with it the signal that special events were occurring in the city.
It was a double jubilee: the Festival in Bergen celebrated its 60th birthday along with the European Festivals Association that looked back on its own history summarised by its motto ‘60 Years On: Festivals and the World’.
In 1952, 15 (music) festivals across 6 countries established one of Europe’s oldest cultural networks with the aim to develop artistic exchange in what was then a newly formed Europe. 60 years later, EFA connects over 100 festivals of all kinds across 42 countries extending far beyond the borders of Europe. Festivals and organisations from other continents, such as FestArab Network, African Festival Association ‘AFRIFESTNET’ and the Association of Asian Performing Arts Festivals (AAPAF) expand and enrich the context of EFA’s work. The presence of three sister networks in Bergen alone confirms the wish for a continued and close collaboration with EFA and its members.
Today, the European Festivals Association sees itself as an ambassador for professional networking which formulates the demands of festivals especially in regards to EU policies and requirements, thus transporting local and national interests to Brussels. Equally, festivals’ strong potential for European integration should continuously be made use of.
“It remains important to us that Doris Pack, Chairwoman of the Culture Committee in the European Parliament, Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, José Manuel Barosso, President of the European Commission, and Androulla Vassiliou, EU Commissioner for Culture, acknowledge in several different gestures, the importance of festivals. EU politicians are in agreement: Festivals play an important role in the European integration process and must therefore not only be supported at EU levels, but also in member states, especially in times when the means for Art and Culture are continuously endangered,” explained Kathrin Deventer, General Secretary of EFA. “Their statements are included in the first EFA film entitled ‘EFA 60 Years On’.”
The diverse range of EFA’s members further reflects the international cultural industry. It reaches from the larger more traditional festivals (like Edinburgh International Festival, BBC Proms or Festival Aix-en-Provence) to the smaller and younger festivals, which in some cases span entire regions (like CULTURESCAPES in Switzerland or Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre).
With such an array of festivals, one begs the question if a three-day conference is enough to address all the different interests. In fact, political, local circumstances, state demands and preconditions for artistic work vary in each country. Nevertheless, many common themes – discussed from diverse perspectives – emerged, enriching the debate of the so-called ‘Bergen Agenda’: a goal-oriented programme for the upcoming years.
Europe’s situation in the crises is affecting all players. In such times, how can the necessary money be generated, what does the global financial crisis mean for festivals, for their audiences, and their programmes? “Festivals mean business, festivals have meaning for businesses,” according to the titles of two panels. Are EU applications helpful or merely a lot of work that usually leads to rejection? Representatives of the EU, as European Commission Director General, Jan Truszczynski, and the MEP and Chairwoman of the Committee on Culture, Doris Pack, discussed on site, and promised to simplify the process and increase the use of funds. A new programme under the working title "Europe for Festivals – Festivals for Europe", initiated by EFA, is to remedy the situation and pay tribute to a greater number of festivals.
Another topic was innovation and participation. Is today's generation of festival directors not too old for the young audience and should they not strengthen festivals in order to provide a platform for younger artists? "Open the box of the creative process and let people look into it," these are the demands for transparency, more participation and interaction with the audience, which has long ceased to hold an exclusively consumer focus. This aspect was underlined by Michael Haefliger, Director of the Lucerne Festival, in his opening speech, reflecting one of the guiding ideas of the Bergen Agenda: "Time and room must be given to the creative process and experimentation so that festivals in the future can innovatively break with tradition.”
“For all those who wish to carry on working on your laptops, not to worry, we won’t disturb you with this discussion,” joked Darko Brlek, President of EFA, with the participants. In fact, all throughout the room, people were simultaneously emailing, chatting and tweeting about the conference. No wonder then, that the excessive development of digital media is felt across all festivals. Is it purely a marketing tool or is social media being used for artistic programming? Can one succeed in achieving stronger audience participation through social media, and what do these developments mean for the reception of the arts and audience behaviour? EFA takes up some of these questions in their own blog (www.festivalbytes.eu).
Participation, innovation, financing in times of crisis and digitisation – these themes preoccupy the entire cultural sector. Through their concentration and intensity festivals receive much attention, and thus allow to put even higher focus on these issues. How will the next generation deal with these developments?
In this light, it is especially promising that the participants of the 6 year running Atelier for Young Festival Managers are becoming active and contribute to EFA’s development as the new generation of ‘festival makers’. However there are only “60 years of EFA and ten minutes of airtime for the offspring,” suggested Anna Lewanowicz, Director of the Krakow Theatrical Reminiscences. The present Atelier alumni were quick to formulate their experiences, expectations and visions. Bernard Faivre d’Arcier, one of the most experienced festival directors and also taking part in the Ateliers, was also present. Time and again, he was being confronted by young festival leaders who wanted to advance with their good ideas, but who feared their creative energy would be drained in processes and applications. The inter-generational dialogue is sure to be a significant topic in the coming years of the European Festivals Association.
The conference ended with a boat trip through the fjords, another great opportunity for relaxed networking, initiating some co-productions and exchanging experiences. After three intensive days, participants left Bergen with many new impulses, ideas and contacts, not to mention an unexpected Norwegian suntan.
The article first appeared in the Arts Management Newsletter (Issue No. 109 - June 2012 - ISSN 1610-238X), a bi-monthly magazine for the global Perspective in Arts and Business published by the Arts Management Network. The special topic of this magazine was "Positive Impulses".
More information about the EFA Jubilee at www.efa-aef.eu/efa60