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EFA President Darko Brlek looks at EFA 60 Years On
Gent, Monday, 18-06-2012
At the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the European Festivals Association (EFA) in 2012, EFA President Darko Brlek reminds of the achievements of festivals and the Association in the past 60 years and urges the need to join forces with partners from all over the world.
I am delighted to address you as President of the European Festivals Association (EFA).
In 2012, the European Festivals Association (EFA) is celebrating its Diamond Jubilee, as are the Ljubljana Festival and many other festivals: 60 years of networking and connecting festival leaders, artists, emerging festival managers, experts, researchers and politicians from very diverse regions, countries and continents; 60 years of growth and active participation, artistic co-operation, professional development and action for the arts; 60 years in which Europe, the world and the arts have changed dramatically.
Throughout 2012, EFA joins forces with festivals around the world to celebrate, commemorate and in particular reflect upon the present and future of arts festivals in the world. Together, we look at the responsibility of festivals today to help shape the world tomorrow. During the Jubilee Gala under the motto “60 Years On: Festivals and the World” in Bergen, Norway, 180 festival colleagues gave input on the ‘Bergen Agenda’ which characterises EFA's work in the years to come. Next to the discussion and definition of key topics – innovation, festivals and business, audience participation and citizenship in digital times – one of the main results was the agreement on joining efforts in a coalition of: EFA members, sister festival networks such as the African Festival Association AFRIFESTNET, the Association of Asian Performing Arts Festivals (AAPAF), FestArab, alumni of the Atelier for Young Festival Managers, as well as cultural networks and organisations such as the European House for Culture, A Soul for Europe and the Access to Culture Platform, co-producers of the Jubilee Conference.
Europe’s festivals have been some of our greatest success stories over the last 60 years. They demonstrate the glories of our many cultures in the most inspiring surroundings. Those who started European political integration and those who were staging festivals in the 1950s all shared the same belief – that the only way to avoid a recurrence of war and heal its scars was to work together.
In 1948, Denis de Rougemont wrote: “What remains unique to Europe is its culture: a measure of mankind, a principle of permanent self-criticism, a certain human balance resulting from countless tensions.” Some of the greatest festivals were born in times of Europe’s greatest political difficulty and financial hardship. We recognise the regenerative power that festivals have on societies – that they can herald a new political climate and a new economic dynamism. In 1952, 15 festivals rallied to de Rougemont’s vision, and that of Igor Markevitch and founded the European Festivals Association.
EFA is the result of the dialogue between these two great Europeans: de Rougemont the philosopher and Markevitch the artist; a Swiss and a Ukrainian; an experienced politician and a young conductor.
In its 60 years history, EFA has witnessed a changing Europe, marked by conflict, re-invention and integration. The experiences of EFA and its members form a mosaic. But although unique, these experiences have in common a conviction that arts and festivals foster individual commitment. However, we need laboratories too. Just as science needs investment to experiment, the cultural and political development that festivals encourage needs our investment; even more so when public budgets and other areas of social integration and enterprise are under strain. Artistic and political motivations are the driving force behind EFA and festival networks the world over as they work to find the most suitable way to represent them.
For 60 years, the European Festivals Association has brought together people at the top of the arts profession to compare ideas and share their knowledge. The result has been a growth in quality and importance that Europe can be proud of and that is, in many ways, unmatched anywhere else.
At the occasion of EFA’s Diamond Jubilee, we continue to reach beyond ourselves to the politicians and officials, the media, the supporters and detractors, the sponsors, fellow cultural practitioners and audiences. On behalf of 111 members from 42 countries across the world I invite you to join the conversation: there is “still so much to be done” as Denis de Rougemont whispered at the end of his life. I am looking forward to start working today.
With festive Jubilee greetings,
Darko Brlek, President of the European Festivals Association
• EFA Jubilee website
• EFA Jubilee Publication
• EFA Jubilee Film