Denis de Rougemont* Labs - Arts Festivals Summit 2024

The motto of this year's Art Festival Summit is "The art of awareness, caring and connectivity". It invites for a series of conversations about the responsibility of festivals, the arts and Europe to contribute to the well-being and living conditions of our societies.

Monday, 13 May 2024 | 11.00-15.00 Denis de Rougemont Labs

Peenemünde Historical Technical Museum - Im Kraftwerk, 17447 Peenemünde

To care for quality of life and good living conditions for every person in the community (and the planet) is the task every public authority as well as civil society structures on another level should be dealing with, from local to European and also the global level. Where do the arts come in this task? What is the value?

We do not doubt that living conditions or ‘the quality of life’ and the arts are connected: We are convinced that the arts contribute to personal, organisational and systemic well-being and health of individuals and society or communities at large, and more and more research confirm this. The awareness of this power or potential of the arts though is not wide-spread nor is its power well-released, particularly in terms of budget allocation and political priorities.

On 13 May in Peenemünde, we will dive into a series of parallel working groups called the ‘Denis de Rougemont Laboratories’. The DdR Labs aim to understand some of the values and areas where the arts can make a powerful contribution to our quality of life, and think about a personal / organisational way to make a next ‘move up’ on the living conditions scale and cover 3 main thematic areas: Festivals and the arts; Festivals and society; Festivals and their money.

The DdR Labs will provide you the space for in-depth reflection and joint thinking for 3 hours, to share personal experiences and systemic discussions, around one of the 10 topics that is steered by an ‘expert’ in groups of each 25 participants.

1. Festivals and Programming

The area of Festivals and Programming covers the freedom of the arts, the gaps of the market, the imbalances in programming, the act of activism in a festival.

  • Group 1. "Nothing is ok” (Rene Pollesh) with Jurriaan Cooiman, Director of Culturescapes (Switzerland)
    How much activism can art take? How will art help the cause of activism? What does our world(s) need now? In three steps, we will present and reflect on our current and possible future programming/curating practices in a discussion focusing on "what is not ok”.
  • Group 2. DEI: is it a mission-critical competence? with Ceyda Berk-Söderblom, Founder & Artistic Director at MiklagårdArts (Finland/Sweden/Turkey)
    The role of art managers/programmers/curators is changing drastically. The shifting societal landscape has produced an environment we must navigate carefully. Which competencies are needed to address societal challenges and be relevant? How to rethink our position through a few overlapping perspectives of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)? Is it a genuine priority to put into practice or a “tick-box” exercise?
  • Group 3. The geographic gap: presentation of talents from East-West with Milica Popovic, Project Manager at Cultural Centre "Nikola Djurkovic" Kotor (Montenegro)
    Ever noticed how some festivals seem to showcase talents predominantly from one region, while others miss out on the richness of diversity? We'll be exploring why it's important to include talents from all corners of the globe, especially from East to West. Together, we'll unpack the challenges festival organisers face in bridging this geographic gap and brainstorm creative solutions to programme incredible talents from every part of the world.
  • Group 4. Taking a chance on emerging artists with Donika Rudi Berishaj, EFFEA Project Coordinator, and Mirna Gott, International communication and projects at Music Biennale Zagreb
    Up-and-coming artists are the voices of our time, the fuel that drives and keeps festivals going. Programmers are challenged and responsible for exploring unknown or not-yet-known talents and present them to audiences.
    In this discussion, we will dive into the themes of artistic programming, particularly of emerging artists, risk-taking and building lasting relationships among programmers to highlight and help building artists’ career paths.

2. Festivals and Society

The Festivals and Society area covers how festivals correlate and interact with technological progress, climate change, demographic, local and global challenges.

  • Group 5. Can the arts save Europe? with Eric Corijn, Cultural philosopher, social scientist, professor (Belgium)
    Both the European Union and the European values of liberty, equality, fraternity are at risk. We need a reset and a mobilising project. The arts and imagination are at the centre of changes of paradigm. They have to relate to the new conditions of geopolitics, Europeanness and urbanity. It will need other ways of thinking community and society.
  • Group 6. Making Sense? with Rarița Zbranca, Programme Director of Cluj Cultural Centre (Romania) and Mahir Namur, Cultural Manager, Existential Coach & Psychological Counselor (Turkey)
    We dive into how arts at festivals boost well-being and purpose, starting with our own festival experiences. Whose lives do our festivals touch, and how? Can festivals help us navigate a changing world and find meaning? How do we make festivals more meaningful for everyone and the planet?
  • Group 7. AI and the New Festival Age with Haris Pašović, Director of Sarajevo Fest (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
    Gutenberg, Edison, Tesla and Turing have fundamentally shaped our civilisation. On the same revolutionary scale is AI. It will change the festivals as we know them now in the near future. Are we ready for the New Festival Age?

  • Group 8. Responsible consumption and production in the framework of festivals with Mikko Laamanen, Research Professor on Technology and Sustainability at Oslo Metropolitan University (Finland/Norway)
    Demands for ecologically and socially aware festivals are getting louder. In this session, focussing on "SDG 12 Sustainable Production and Consumption" in festivals context, we will ask: What is the status of current sustainability practice? How is sustainability expressed in programming, production and consumption / experience? How can festivals connect to the conscious lifestyles of audiences, and expectations of communities and authorities?

  • Group 9. Experimenting democracy with Nele Hertling (Germany) and Nicolas Bertrand (France) from A Soul for Europe
    Why do we choose to create a festival? To promote an artistic form, to respond to a local need or commission? How does an idea, vision, desire germinate? How does a founder (a person, a group) mobilise around this idea, analyse needs, find resources and strengths? How is the festival project organised over time, and what are the consequences for the group in terms of its composition, skills, mode of action and governance? What weakens the core group or, on the contrary, makes it more robust?

3. Festivals and Money

The area Festivals and Money will cover from where, for what, with what kinds of ethics is the money of festivals coming from and dedicated to today.

  • Group 10. Let’s talk about Money with Peter Florence, Initiator of European Festivals Forest (UK) and Natália Oszkó-Jakab, Head of the Arts for Rural Development Foundation (Hungary)
    Why do festival-goers buy tickets? Why do public bodies fund festivals? Why do philanthropists donate and sponsors invest? And how does that influence what we do as producers and directors? An interactive workshop sharing best practice in how to think about the value festivals bring, and how to diversify income streams.

15.15-16.15 Connecting the Dots

The DdR Labs invite you to collect some values which underlie the debate on living conditions, questions, proposals, examples on how the arts play a role in defining living conditions today.

Following the 3-hour discussions, all participants will come together in the afternoon and connect the dots on the two main questions that transcend all the Laboratories:  

1. How do we - the arts, festivals, cities & regions, Europe - contribute to create better living conditions for the people and the planet? What is our value? What is our potential? What is the next step in my world/work?
2. What do we need: from us, from politics, from the world? in order for
     - Me/my organisation to perform ‘better’/more happy/healthy/efficient
     - For the sector to have a greater impact (funding, advocacy...)?

We will bring these contributions to policy makers and the business community to help understand better together how the arts relate to a joint responsibility festivals, cities, Europe feel concerned with alike. 

* In today's political context, we invite to keep in mind the achievements and learnings of European fathers such as Denis de Rougemont. He played an important role for culture in Europe by founding the "Centre Européen de la Culture" in 1950 and the European Festivals Association in 1952.