The Festival Cities Initiative

Under continual construction

Arts and the artists are the matrix of each festival.
As is the city and its community. 
There is no community without the arts. For whatever non-explainable reason...

Festivals and cities are Siamese twins. The need to experience the arts and culture together, the need to assemble motivated societies – urban and regional communities alike – to join together in celebration of life and creativity. 

The European Festivals Association (EFA) is convinced about the importance of mayors and decision makers on the local level. We are equally convinced about the importance of the relation and collaboration between a city and its arts festivals. We also assume in our long standing collaboration with 'A Soul for Europe' that a city together with its festivals has a task to fulfill for Europe since we believe in the creative power of art and culture to strengthen the possibilities and willingness of citizens to become active in the future development of Europe.

There is a necessity for festival and cities to connect with each other in order to give its communities a temper, a spirit, a face, a soul. 

© Thor Brødreskift - Bergen International Festival

EFFE Seal for Festivals Cities and Regions

The EFFE Seal for Festival Cities and Regions is a recognition and an invitation to cities and regions that wish to associate and integrate their development and image with a strong festival, cultural - and European - commitment. 

It is co-initiated by 7 cities: Belgrade, Bergen, Edinburgh, Ghent, Krakow, Leeuwarden and Ljubljana. 

Meetings so far

The first meeting was held in Ljubljana in 2018 with the launch of an EFA-Eurocities Declaration, followed by meetings in Lisbon, Brussels and Berlin with 'A Soul for Europe' in 2019.

The wealth of suggestions, of perspectives from artists, festival makers, curators, mayors, cities representatives, thinkers, of origins from Tbilisi to Berlin is the basis for EFA and 'A Soul for Europe' to launch the Festival Cities Initiative based on the necessities we identify and the opportunities and strengths that we, festivals and cities, can use together:

1. We are together committed to the constantly evolving concept of “Festival Cities” and to give it a meaningful proposal

2. We are together committed to the concept of “Festival Cities for Europe” and ready to give it breath and life in the frame of our cities and our festivals

3. We are launching this Festival Cities Initiative

  • to learn, inspire, collaborate and exchange together on a joint agenda and empower each other
  • to speak to the outside together with one voice about the strength of festivals and cities for Europe
  • initiate examples of actions and activities

4.  Our work agenda will deplore in various chapters: through meetings of the Festival Cities Initiative and above all through actions in festivals and cities creating examples of collaborative work between festivals and cities around certain agenda points.

Cities interested in the Festival Cities Initiative

Moreover 40 cities from 22 European countries are already interested and expressed their commitment in the Festivals Cities Alliance: Baku, Belgrade, Bergen, Berlin, Brussels, Clermont-Ferrand, Deltebre, Évora, Førde, Galway, Ghent, Goslar, Guimarães, Krakow, Leeuwarden, Lisbon, Ljubljana, Mariuopol, Merida, Milan, Novi Sad, Nurnberg, Odesa, Piran, Plovdiv, Prague, Reykjavik, Setúbal, Sines, Sopot, Tbilisi, Tirana, Tomakivka, Varna, Vienna, Vilnius, Vinnytsia, Zagreb.

Our Covid-19 global response: The Festival Cities Initiative Invitation

However disruptive this time of corona is, it is also an opportunity as well as a crisis. A time to reconsider and re-evaluate the meaning of community and the value and impact of art and festivals in our lives and cities.  

The Festival Cities Initiative joins forces in a global Festival Cities Initiative that brings together a strategic core group of festivals, cities, and networks that commit to increased global partnership and more effective dialogue around the international festival circuit; common impacts; new strategies; and good practice exchange.  

With this enlarged group, we have set up a series of five Festival Cities Conversations starting in May and ending in July 2020.

This core group includes: 

  • The European Festivals Association and its strategic partner A Soul for Europe
  • The Cities of Krakow (Poland) and Bergen (Norway) and all the cities that have joined the Festival Cities Initiative thus far
  • The Festivals Adelaide – peak body for Adelaide’s 11 major festivals

The initiative seeks to build coalitions around the globe and welcomes the active engagement of all partners. 

© Johannes Plenio

The Festival Cities Initiative’s points discussed so far

  • Initiative against the right and fascists
  • Culture as a model for peace and understanding
  • Responsibilities of cities to ensure freedom of expression against censorship
  • Festivals and Cities for Active European Citizenship and more Democracy
  • Cities and festivals as platforms for thinking and working for Europe, based on models of 'A Soul for Europe': mutual activities for Europe during the course of their festivals
  • Next to the Label for Festivals, introduce the Festival Cities for Europe Seal
  • Sustainability agenda 2030
  • Vivibility in cities in the frame of sustainable cultural tourism
  • A city, festivals and sustainability: Economic, environmental and social and fourth and new one: the cultural way: Green Festivals and cities
  • Mobility in cities: Festivals, trains, Cities
  • Festivals to be used by the city as role models: for Europe, for ecological food and other sustainability policies.
  • How to connect 'community' and 'society’ and the role of the city to support the exchange between the graatsroots initiatives and the ‘big players’ in the city as well as between cities and countries. 
  • Local partnerships for certain joint events cross-sectorial: festivals, schools or youth organisations in the city
  • Participatory project approaches and the role of the city
  • Cultural dimension of citizenship and the relation to the concept of residency
  • Joint communication actions to influence: on cities, on festivals, on European website: can be a tool
  • How cultural data about Europe’s festivals can be used to profile a city’s destination + do we have influencers
  • How a city can increase access to its festivals and arts: a new technology
  • The role of a city in increasing access to the festivals programme in joint actions (city screens, public viewing, city agenda of cultural events, and others)
  • How a city together with civil society (festivals) can ensure to put art and cultural policy and budget higher on the policy agenda  
  • What EU funds for the intersection between cities and festivals
  • Can other initiatives and policies help support arts and culture?
  • A new cultural city proposal (Theatre City)
  • A joint cultural agenda of cities transnationally for exchange of arts
  • Cities and Festivals for Europe in a global context as doors for cultural diplomacy and cooperation
  • Representatives of other alliances for Europe (academies, film, theatre) should be invited to participate in events of the festivals on Europe.
  • How a city can learn from the multiple skills to run a festival and be a festival: e.g. the power of creativity
  • The economic impact of a festival on a city
© Luca A.d'Agostino - Mittelfest