The Festival Network since 1952

The European Festivals Association (EFA) was founded in Geneva in 1952 upon the joint initiative of the eminent conductor Igor Markewitch and the great philosopher Denis de Rougemont, with 15 festivals making up the core. The founders were deeply engaged in the quality and the social responsibility of festivals. Today, EFA counts about 100 individual members – music, theatre, dance and interdisciplinary festivals – as well as national festival associations and cultural networks in 40 countries.

Highlights of EFA’s history:


EFA meets the festivals from the region


Launch of the EFFE Seal for Festival Cities and Regions


Arts Festivals Summit Galway


Zoom meeting


Round Table with EU Commissioner for Culture Tibor Navracsics



In 2014/2015, the first EFFE Awards and Labels were celebrated. (©Lander Loeckx)


  • Launch of EFFE: Europe for Festivals, Festivals for Europe, the Pilot Project for a European Platform for Festivals 
  • Round Table with EU Commissioner for Culture Androulla Vassiliou and new EU Commissioner for Culture Tibor Navracsics 
  • General Assembly Sarajevo and "Sarajevo Conversations" 
  • Ateliers for Young Festival Managers EDINBURGH and POZNAN 
  • Festival Readings Sibiu 
  • CAMM Lucerne 
  • Partnership in "Rising to the Occasion" (RISE) with The Festival Academy, the European House for Culture, A Soul for Europe, and others 
  • Story-telling about festivals on EFA Blog Festival Bytes

Atelier in Edinburgh (©James Clark)


  • Round Table with EU Commissioner for Culture Androulla Vassiliou 
  • CAMM Belgrade 
  • General Assembly and Conference "Festival Life 2013" in Granada
  • Launch of The Festival Academy 
  • Festival Readings Sibiu 
  • Partnership in the “Cultural Coalition for a Citizens’ Europe" with the European House for Culture, the Access to Culture Platform and A Soul for Europe 
  • Story-telling about festivals on EFA Blog Festival Bytes

2013 EFA General Assembly in Granada


  • Diamond Jubilee: “EFA 60 Years On: Festivals and the World”: The European Festivals Association (EFA) celebrated its Diamond Jubilee in 2012. One of the highlights was the EFA Jubilee in Bergen, Norway (23-25 May 2012), hosted and co-organised by the Bergen International Festival. It brought together EFA members, festivals worldwide, partner networks, friends and colleagues from the wider cultural and professional community. Throughout 2012, EFA joined forces with festivals around the world to celebrate, commemorate and in particular reflect on the present and future of arts festivals in the world. Under the motto “60 Years On: Festivals and the World”, we looked at the responsibility of festivals today to help shape the world tomorrow.
  • Launch of EFA Blog Festival Bytes 
  • Round Table with EU Commissioner for Culture Androulla Vassiliou 
  • Launch of African Festival Association and FestArab 
  • CAMM Dublin 
  • Atelier LJUBLJANA 
  • EFA BOOKS 5: Inside/Insight Festivals. 9 Festival Directors - 9 Stories
  • European House for Culture kicking off European Year of Citizens 2013

EFA celebrates its 60th anniversary


  • General Assembly and Conference “Out of the Box” in Varna
  • Publication: Open the Door 
  • Ateliers for Young Festival Managers SINGAPORE and IZMIR 
  • CAMM Budapest 
  • Launch of FESTudy (research project initiated by France Festivals)


  • Open the Door: Festivals are in a privileged position to provide the means for everyone to experience culture. Festivals open doors to new artistic forms, new performers, new audiences, unusual venues, unknown cultures, new points of view, new approaches to arts and the world, new social orders, new political discussions. In 2010, the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, and under the motto “Festivals: Open doors. Open minds. Build societies!” the European Festivals Association (EFA) invited arts festivals worldwide to open doors. As in previous European Years, EFA had been awarded official partner of the European Union.
  • General Assembly and Conference “Open the Door” in Merano 
  • Round Table with EU Commissioner for Culture Androulla Vassiliou 
  • President of Croatia Ivo Josipovic receives EFA, launch of No Borders Orchestra 
  • First AAPAF-EFA meeting 
  • Ars Nova Brussels 
  • CAMM Stockholm


  • FestLab for Creativity and Innovation: The European Festivals Association (EFA) initiated the FestLab for Creativity and Innovation at the occasion of the year 2009 European Year of Creativity and Innovation. Artistic creativity and innovation play an important role in today’s complex, rapidly changing world. They help people to understand our contemporary societies and cultures. Change should be embraced as an opportunity. Arts, culture and festivals are in a unique position to help in this mission by fostering this attitude through various means. The FestLab for Creativity and Innovation was established to enhance collaboration, creation and exchange while demonstrating the important role that culture, arts, artists and festivals play in creating a fruitful ground for the development of innovative and creative talents and competences.
  • General Assembly and Conference “Artistic Trends in Festivals” in Vilnius 
  • Atelier for Young Festival Managers VARNA 
  • Launch of MusMA: Music Masters on Air 
  • EFA BOOKS 4: Dialogue. Festivals Act for an Intercultural Society 
  • CAMM Ubeda


  • Arts Festivals' Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue: The European Festivals Association (EFA) initiated the Arts Festivals' Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue in the framework of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008. Festivals from all over the world developed exceptional projects celebrating intercultural dialogue and highlighting the outstanding excellence of arts and culture and, in particular, festivals for enhancing intercultural dialogue.
  • Kathrin Deventer becomes Secretary General (active mandate)
  • General Assembly and Conference “Festivals in a Globalising World” in Antalya 
  • First engagement in the European Years: European Year of Intercultural Dialogue – launch of Arts Festivals’ Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue, Ljubljana 
  • Launch European House for Culture 
  • Launch EU Platform Access to Culture, EFA is one of the founding members 
  • EFA BOOKS 2: Give, Get or Get Off! Challenges of cultural networking today 
  • EFA BOOKS 3: Cahier de l’Atelier. Arts festivals for the sake of art? 
  • CAMM Tallinn

Festivals sign the Art Festivals' Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue in Ljubljana, Slovenia.


  • General Assembly and Conference “Cultural Networks at Work” in Brussels, in cooperation with the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) 
  • First Round Table with EU Commissioner for Culture Jan Figel’ 
  • Ars Nova Brussels 
  • CAMM Ljubljana


  • Launch EFA BOOKS Series: EFA BOOKS 1 “Still so much to be done” at the occasion of the centenary of Denis de Rougemont 
  • Launch Atelier for Young Festival Managers: Atelier with first edition in Görlitz 
  • General Assembly and Conference “Festivals and the Media” in Luxemburg 
  • CAMM (Collective and Affiliate Members Meeting) in Rome 
  • Ars Nova Oslo


  • Darko Brlek becomes fifth President (until 2017)
  • General Assembly and Conference “EFA and its Networking Opportunities” in Brno
  • Ars Nova Zagreb


  • Gavin Henderson becomes fourth President (until 2004) 
  • EFA moves from Switzerland to Belgium 
  • Hugo De Greef becomes Secretary General (until 2008) 
  • General Assembly and Conference “New Europe, New Horizons! What next for festivals?” in London
  • Foundation of AAPAF, sister network in Asia 
  • Launch of European Festival Research Project (EFRP)


  • 2003 General Assembly Wroclaw • Ars Nova Zagreb
  • 2002 50th anniversary at the General Assembly Coppet/Geneva: Festival of Festivals and EFA 50th anniversary Charter by Dragan Klaic • Ars Nova Amsterdam
  • 2001 General Assembly Bad Kissingen • Ars Nova working group on contemporary music in Berlin
  • 2000 Set up of EuroFestival and a Data Centre in Brussels at the General Assembly Helsinki • EFA develops first website under EuroFestival • EFA training programme in Estoril
  • 1999 Cooperation with the EU - first financial support • First EFA training programme in Geneva • General Assembly Dubrovnik
  • 1998 General Assembly Estoril
  • 1997 New categories of membership are introduced for ‘collective’ members at the General Assembly Turin • European Music Festivals Association becomes European Festivals Association
  • 1996 Tamás Klenjánszky becomes Secretary General (until 2004) at General Assembly Brussels
  • 1995 General Assembly Ljubljana • Publication “European Festivals”
  • 1994 General Assembly Brighton
  • 1993 General Assembly Budapest
  • 1992 General Assembly Pesaro • Celebration of EFA’s 40th anniversary in Berlin
  • 1991 General Assembly Prague • Creation of working groups on early music, contemporary music, extra-European arts and more
  • 1990 General Assembly Athens
  • 1989 Frans de Ruiter becomes third President (until 2004) at the General Assembly Istanbul • European co-production, co-promotion and co-sponsorship committee
  • 1988 General Assembly Berlin
  • 1987 General Assembly Bergen
  • 1986 General Assembly Amsterdam
  • 1985 General Assembly Estoril
  • 1984 General Assembly Ljubljana
  • 1983 Henry Siegwart becomes Secretary General (until 1996) at the General Assembly Santander
  • 1982 Tassilo Nekola becomes second President (until 1989) at the General Assembly Stresa
  • 1981 General Assembly Bregenz
  • 1980 General Assembly Granada
  • 1979 General Assembly Verona
  • 1978 General Assembly Salzburg
  • 1977 General Assembly Bruges
  • 1976 General Assembly Strasbourg • Publication "Festivals de Musique Européens"
  • 1974 General Assembly Athens
  • 1966 First festival from outside Europe joined: Israel Festival, Jerusalem
  • 1960 Franz Walter becomes Secretary General and artistic advisor (until 1983)
  • 1959 General Assembly Munich
  • 1957 First research published on “The role of festivals in Europe’s cultural life” (“Le rôle des festivals dans la vie culturelle de l’Europe”)
  • 1956 Abraham Van der Vies becomes Secretary General (until 1959) • First General Assembly outside Geneva: Venice
  • 1953-1955 General Assemblies Geneva
  • 1952 Foundation of the “Association Européenne des Festivals de Musique” by Denis de Rougemont, first President (until 1982), and Igor Markevitch • René Gerhard Podbielski becomes Secretary General (until 1955) • Founding members: Festival Aix-en-Provence • Bayreuther Festspiele • Berliner Festspiele • Festival International de Musique de Besançon Franche-Comté • Festival de Musique Bordeaux • Teatro Del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Fondazione • Holland Festival • Lucerne Festival • Münchner Opernfestspiele • Sagra Musicale Umbra - Perugia • Festival de Musique de Strasbourg • Biennale di Venezia - International Festival of Contemporary Music • Wiener Festwochen • Internationale Mai-Festspiele Wiesbaden • Zürcher Festspiele
Denis de Rougemont, first President and Co-founder of EFA