70-Years-On Agenda

70 years after its birth, EFA is inviting for a continued agenda setting for festivals. Starting point for our ongoing reflections is the 70-Years-On Agenda.

For the seventy years of its existence, the European Festival Association (EFA) has been continually evolving. At its birth, in the aftermath of World War Two, the organisation aligned with the need to rebuild Europe and the world with the arts. Now, seventy years later we are standing, partially, in the ruins of that attempt. We must admit that culture was and is vulnerable and instrumentalised by the political powers. Without transgressing from our remit, we feel obliged to state our solidarity with the victims of war to express our firm belief in the sovereignty and dignity of all people, to endorse the need to de-colonise the last empire and hear the voices of the oppressed.

The latest steps are logical developments for the Association. From an exclusive membership society, in an age when breeding artistic and social capital was a major role of arts festivals, EFA grew committed to more and more social, political, and even economic values and aims – parallel with the ever-expanding functions of arts and culture in society. Far from being a linear progression, opening and expansion have remained decisive features of the trajectory of the Association. As a mature membership organisation EFA has been, reaching out to a variety of new stakeholders in the past few years and has shown its engagement in a growing array of societal causes. This stance is likely to characterise the life of the Association in the foreseeable future, while at the same time providing activities to increase the organisational and artistic opportunities of its members.

In its capacity as a responsible and responsive body, EFA is guided by a Thinking Group, whose current members introduce themselves in the following pages. It is they who have shaped the European Festivals 70-Years-On Agenda for the next few years and have pledged to be around when this menu is put into action – an agenda that remains under continual construction. They help define the aura of the Association in its interaction with festivals (members primarily and thousands more through various projects), authorities, media, funders, fellow associations, and other partners and stakeholders.

The potential impact of festivals on society and their social purpose is at the core of this agenda. What makes festivals for issues that transcend their commitment to the arts? In fact, it is culture that is laden with such a charge in our age and festivals are an eminent medium to realise this mission and the capacity of the arts.

70-Years-On Conversations

Each second week of the month, EFA Members, Alumni of The Festival Academy, and holders of the EFFE Seal for Festival Cities and Regions come together around the 70-Years-On Agenda.

The 70-Years-On Conversations offer a window to learn from festival makers’ experiences. In these monthly conversations, we unfold the agenda and zoom in on the different points by sharing the work on the field, strategies and concrete suggestions from individual festivals that are part of the 70-Years-On Thinking Group. It is the occasion to listen, learn, question, and share the perspectives from the festivals that are present. They lead to lively and passionate debates.

The following conversations happened so far:

  • 13 December 2022: Multicultural programming and Legacy with Emily Ansenk from Holland Festival (Points 5 and 8 of the Agenda)
  • 17 January 2023: Festival autonomy with Agata Grenda from Gdańsk Shakespeare Festival (Point 7 of the Agenda)
  • 14 February 2023: Festivals' Creativity and Relevance with Eyal Sher from Israel Festival (Points 3 and 15 of the Agenda)
  • 9 May 2023: Sustainability as a challenge off the agenda with Bartosz Szydłowski from Divine Comedy Festival
  • 12 June 2023: Autonomy and accessibility: a festival's balancing act with Julia Amour from Festivals Edinburgh

70-Years-On Thinking Group

The 70-Years-On Thinking Group shaped the 70-Years-On Agenda that will guide EFA's work in the next few years and remain under continual construction.

The members of this group have given a statement related to the following question: How can a festival impact society most significantly in your opinion? Can we influence politics as a sector? Do we want to fulfil a societal purpose? more than ever, or less?